By now most of the Island’s college students have finished up with school and have either returned home for the summer or have graduated and are seeking career opportunities.
Not so college junior Mackenzie Needham and her brother Connor who graduated from college a couple of weeks ago. The two sailed on the Shelter Island High School team back when the team first started and gained valuable experience in the short course style of racing that they would encounter in college.
Mackenzie sails for the University of Rhode Island and Connor sails for Roger Williams University. Both the URI and RWU college teams qualified this past spring for the upcoming National Championships. In the Northeast, which is the toughest district for collegiate sailing, you’ll find powerhouses such as Yale, Boston College, Dartmouth, Harvard, MIT and Tufts, among others. To make the finals by competing against these teams is a feat in itself.
Mackenzie has been on campus practicing with the URI team since the end of final exams. Recently elected the team’s captain for next fall and spring she will be one of three skippers sailing for URI at the ICSA/Sperry Women’s Nationals being held May 27 to 30 at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
URI won the Women’s National Championship in 2011 and will have returning senior skipper Chanel Miller from that winning team in this event. Mackenzie is also making a repeat appearance at Women’s Nationals. In 2012 while attending Washington College in Maryland and skippering B division, she helped secure the college’s first ever trip to the Nationals. This year twenty eight colleges will be whittled down to eighteen for the finals during the four day regatta.
Connor is a four year starter for RWU and earned the Coaches Award this year for his performance sailing during the 2013-14 seasons. He will be competing at the APS Team Race National Championship being held at St. Mary’s College in Maryland May 31 to June 2. His college, RWU won the Northeast qualifier back in early April securing their spot along with fifteen other colleges from around the nation.
Stanford, Yale and Georgetown are among the favorites to win the event this year although the RWU team has had a strong showing this spring at team race events winning three of four regattas. RWU is expected to at least make it to the final four where they will then have a shot at the title.
RWU won Team Race Nationals in 2011 when Connor was a sophomore; it was the college’s first trip ever to a national championship.