Locals, Olympians unite for Mashpee
By Brad Joyal
MASHPEE — For one morning, the Mashpee-Wakeby Ponds were the epicenter of rowing in America.
After COVID-19 led to the cancelation of numerous regattas and rowing events throughout the country, the inaugural Head of the Ponds Regatta served as a marquee occasion for rowing enthusiasts from Cape Cod and beyond.
The energy and excitement inside Attaquin Park was palpable Sunday morning as the 24 single rowers and four pairs of doubles broke into cheers prior to the start of the invitation- only race, which included a unique 7.5-kilometer course that started and finished in the south end of Mashpee Pond.
“I think everybody was just overjoyed to be here,” said Dan Schley, a Fairfield, Conn., resident who won the doubles race with his wife, Andrea, with a handicapped time of 30 minutes and 16.9 seconds. “When everybody cheered at the beginning it was like, ‘Here we are, we’re back!’” Among the group of 18 men who competed in the singles competition was a pair of former U.S. Olympic rowers, Jim Dietz and Tom Darling, as well as Gregg Stone, who represented Team USA in the 1977 World Rowing Championships and was the nation’s top singles sculler when the United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.
Stone proved to be victorious Sunday, earning the men’s singles title with a handicapped time of 30:08. The resident of Newton and Marion was especially pleased to upend Dietz (30:24.8) and Darling (30:56.4), two competitors he said he considers friends.
“Tom Darling beats me all the time, so this feels nice,” Stone said. “And then Dietz and I’ve rowed against each other since I left college and we’ve been great friends ever since.”
Dietz, a Centerville resident, was a three-time Olympic rower who started the women’s varsity rowing program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1994 and coached the team until retiring in 2019.
Darling, who lives in Lincoln, also is a former three-time Olympic rower who captured the silver medal as a member of Team USA’s men’s eights team at the 1984 Olympics and now serves as the director of Para-Rowing for U.S.
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Tom Darling, of Lincoln, rows on a single scull during the inaugural Head of the Ponds Regatta on Sunday morning at Mashpee-Wakeby Ponds in Mashpee. Darling is a three-time former U.S. Olympic rower who earned a silver medal in the 1984 Summer Olympics. [PHOTO COURTESY OF REBECCA RUSSO]
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Dietz said he paid little attention to the stacked field of competitors and simply focused on himself while completing the course, which required the rowers to circumnavigate the three islands in Wakeby Pond before making their way back to Mashpee Pond.
“You’re really not racing against somebody else, it’s all about how you’re performing,” Dietz said. “I was pleasantly surprised because I trashed my boat here a couple weeks ago — I ran into shore not knowing where I was going. I borrowed my son’s boat today and felt pretty good.”
Macauley Nash finished fourth for the men’s singles with a time of 30:58.0, besting Mark Schofield, who rounded out the top five in 31:08.2.
Weatherly Dorris, of Falmouth, was the women’s single champion in 37:24.5, finishing less than 7 seconds faster than Elizabeth Harling (37:31.3). Colleen Carroll (37:41.9) was the third-place women’s single finisher, while Mary Ryan (38:13.7) took fourth and Melissa Rosenbladt (39:17.5) was fifth.
Dorris praised the course, which she described as “straightforward,” with the exception of a beautiful surprise around the Wakeby Pond islands.
“It was a very cordial and fun race,” she said. “It’s interesting because the islands sort of hide against the shoreline because there’s nothing on them, which is kind of magical. It was very pretty and pristine.”
Al and Antje Flanders finished second in the doubles competition with a time of 31:05.2, while Curt and Ginny Kaufmann took third in 34:22.1. John Messenger and Carlos Horcasitas finished fourth in 36:10.1.
Regatta director Heri Sontgerath was thrilled with the end result and said he’s hopeful the Head of the Ponds Regatta will become a yearly event in Mashpee.
“We’re super happy with the whole event — the number of participants and the many volunteers we had to make it a safe race,” Sontgerath said. “Hopefully that gives people a good impression so they’ll want to come back next year.”
Brad Joyal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org