On a rainy and cold weekend in the suburbs of Chicago, IL, the Culver Sailing team competed in the Lake Forest Halloween Spectacular on October 27-28, the last guaranteed regatta on the team's fall schedule. Pressure had been mounting, as the team knew it was the last chance to qualify for the Midwest Interscholastic Sailing Association (MISSA) regional championship; earlier in the year, the team narrowly missed qualifying at three different qualifier events, needing only one top five finish in order to qualify for the Regional Great Lakes Championship on November 3-4 in Chicago.
With the prospect of facing stiff competition from the likes University of Chicago Laboratory School, Latin School of Chicago, New Trier, and others, the Eagles had been mindful of their expectations, setting a goal to simply qualify for the regional championship. Racing the regatta of their careers and finishing the weekend in the first place hadn't much been thought about.
With a bit of angst in the air and some determined and focused sailors, the Culver Maroon squad (Nate Barrett, Beckett Kumler, Caleb Barrett, Audrey Quist, Sam Bialek, and Cady Clark) took first place, maintaining a two-day, significant double-digit margin. A smaller JV squad also participated in the regatta to garner further experience for some up-and-coming sailors. A total of twelve sailors competed in the event.
The feat earns the Eagles a first in program history: a trip to nationals at the Atlantic Coast Championships on November 10-11 in Annapolis, Maryland, where the Eagles will compete as one of the top 20 boats in the nation.
The event location is particularly exciting for team member and CMA second classman Beckett Kumler, who has spent numerous summers sailing in Annapolis. The trip offers Kumler, “a return to his summer playground,” according to his mother Chelsea Kumler.
In only his second year at the helm, Head Coach Joe Hanko had been hoping for a turning point in the season for the team to demonstrate how far the program had come in such a short period of time. With two years of effort focused on upgrading the program's reputation, profile, and fleet along with increasing opportunities for summer and winter school sailors, Coach Hanko could see the momentum building. With the steady support of Assistant Coach Ashley Butler and this year’s new Sailing Fellow Assistant Coach Parker Nelson, the team was able to work toward improved performance this fall and move up in the ranks from its last place finishes in previous years.
"After beginning as the Director of Sailing in 2017, our team set a goal of qualifying for the Great Lakes Championship," said Hanko. "Not only did we achieve that goal this, we earned a spot at the Atlantic Coast Championships, the culminating national fall event for high school interscholastic sailing. This is a first in program history for Culver Sailing, and I couldn’t be more proud of our team."
Despite their cold and rain soaked clothes, the Eagles' victory energized the group when they realized just what they had accomplished.
"I've never seen bigger smiles on our student-athletes," added Director of Athletics Louise Ericson, who accompanied the team during the weekend trip. "It was like watching kids in a candy store as they passed the trophy around for pictures and videos. It reminded me of just how exciting and pure interscholastic athletic competition can be, and I'm honored to have witnessed this moment in the Culver Sailing program's history."