On Sunday, May 29, Norfolk Collegiate’s sailing club earned the championship title at the National Invitational Team Racing Tournament in Minnesota.

The team, comprised of graduating seniors, upper and middle school students, were remarkable in this competition at the Wayzada Yacht Club. Sailors included: Sarah Ellen Smith ’10; Dreugh Phillips ’16; Victor Layne ’16; Nick Baker ’16; Daniel Vail ’17; Ellie Maus ’18; Chris Robertson ’19; Parker Purrington ’19; Matthew Wright ’19; Joe Morrison ’16; and Darden Purrington ’16; Anna Flynn ’20 and Hunter Kahler ’17 were there in spirit.

“Winning the tournament was pretty crazy,” said Darden. “We went in knowing that the competition would be tough but believing that we stood a chance. Honestly, I think that the belief in ourselves is what helped us to win. Having had the goal of attending nationals since I was on the JV team in sixth and seventh grade, I was excited to attend. I never imagined winning the National Invitational Tournament, so it was pretty exciting when we got there and did so well.”

During the fall, our sailing team performed at an all-time high and was named first-team for multiple conferences and categories, including Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools (TCIS) and Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA). Their hard work and dedication to the sport earned first in the TCIS Fleet Racing Championship, first in VISAA Team Racing State Championship, third in MidAtlantic Scholastic Sailing Association (MASSA) Team Racing Regional Championship and fourth place in the Atlantic Coast Championship.

Darden, who has accepted an appointment in the United States Coast Guard Academy and missed graduation to attend the regatta, believes that practicing with intensity and practicing with the same strength the team will perform during a competition is the key to success and wishes the best for the sailing team next year.

“Norfolk Collegiate has shown me how to succeed through failure. Over the last five years, Collegiate has also taught me that through hard work and determination you can do anything you want. There are not many places where it is possible to be involved in both sports and theater, let alone be heavily invested in the choral program, the a cappella group, and the tech theater program and be a varsity team captain for four years. And that doesn't even include the rigorous academic schedule in which every Collegiate student partakes. I believe that this is a gift which many people miss in their lives, and I hope to someday pay forward to others what these teachers and coaches have taught me.”

“Our team has a bright future,” said Darden. “There are a large number of up-and-coming sailors who will fill the shoes of us who graduated this year. I believe that with hard work, next year the team has potential to be better than we ever were. One of the nice things about this team is I don't have to hope for their future success because I have seen what they are capable of, and I believe in them.”

To read the feature in The Virginian-Pilot, click here.