ST. PETERSBURG — Five student-athletes with St. Petersburg roots made waves during the closing weekend of the collegiate sailing season.
The Sail Newport Sailing Center in Rhode Island hosted the Gill College Sailing Coed National Championships May 30 and May 31. Following the competition, top-performing sailors earned the sport’s signature awards.
Nicholas Baird, a 2015 Shorecrest Preparatory School graduate, earned the Everett B. Morris Trophy for the Marlow Ropes College Sailor of the Year award, sailing’s equivalent to college football’s Heisman Trophy. A committee of college sailing coaches voted on the award.
Baird, a senior at Yale University senior, finished as the runner-up to one of his Yale teammates as a sophomore in 2017. Two years later, he broke through and earned college sailing’s top individual honor.
During his junior campaign, Baird said that his Yale squad struggled to round into championship form. Those struggles made this award even more valuable.
“The award, in some ways, is an award for the team just as much as it is for the individual,” Baird said.
Baird also earned All-American Skipper honors from the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association. In his four-year sailing career at Yale, Baird earned All-American honors every year.
“He worked really hard on the team, as a sailor, and academically,” Yale sailing coach Zachary Leonard said. “He was the kind of person who challenged himself in every level of his college experience.”
Baird, 21, recently completed his senior year at Yale University and graduated with majors in history and political science. He wants to make a career out of sailing, but he also plans to explore the law, politics and travel.
Liam McCarthy, the 2015 St. Petersburg High School valedictorian, earned the Robert H. Hobbs Sportsmanship Award. College sailors vote on the award. McCarthy, 22, said that it was a huge honor to be recognized by his peers.
“To be looked at in that way says a lot about how I want to sail, perform and compete,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said that the success of sailors from St. Petersburg is a testament to local training and development.
“It’s a tribute to the sailing and all the opportunities we have in the St. Petersburg area,” McCarthy said. “The St. Petersburg Yacht Club gave us the opportunities to succeed and perform at a high level.”
The ICSA recognized McCarthy, a 2019 graduate of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, as an honorable mention All-American Skipper. McCarthy graduated this may with a degree in economics and public policy.
McCarthy will compete in Transpac, a yacht race from California to Hawaii in July After the race, he will continue to pursue a career in sailing.
The ICSA bestowed All-American honors to three additional Shorecrest Prep alumni. Kathryn Booker, Patrick Shanahan and Hannah Steadman earned All-American Skipper honors.
Booker, a member of the Stanford University sailing team, said that it was an awesome experience to be honored with her peers from St. Petersburg.
“Liam, Nic, Patrick and I have all been sailing together since we were 11,” Booker said. “Going to college was super cool because I got to continue to sail against them.”
Booker, 22, will graduate from Stanford with a degree in psychology this month. In her college sailing career, she earned ISCA All-American Crew honorable mention honors, ICSA All-American Crew honors and ICSA All-Academic honors.
Shanahan and Steadman earned All-American honors for their sailing at Brown University. Steadman is part of Brown’s women’s sailing team, the 2019 national champions.
Brown head coach John Mollicone said that he sees a lot of value in kids from Florida because they are able to sail year-round.
“I’m really happy for them,” Mollicone said. “It’s no surprise to me that both of them have gotten to the highest level of the game in college.”
Matt Thompson, the Assistant Director of Athletics at Shorecrest Prep, said that the school is proud of their former students and their recent accomplishments. Baird, Booker and Shanahan graduated from Shorecrest in 2015. Steadman graduated a year later in 2016.
“These four athletes led our Sailing team to a National Championship in 2015, and all went on to sign with elite colleges," Thompson said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. "They laid the foundation for what has become one of the most successful athletic programs at Shorecrest. To celebrate them now as College Sailing All-Americans is truly a proud moment for us.”
All five student-athletes sailed together at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. Todd Fedyszyn, the current youth sailing director and head coach at the yacht club, coached the five students before they left for college. Fedyszyn said that he was not surprised to see these sailors find success at the next level.
“As a group of high school sailors, they were mature beyond their years, and that transitioned well to college sailing,” Fedyszyn said. “They were all incredible sailors as youth sailors, and it was just a matter of time before they earned All-American honors.”
Four of the athletes have concluded their college sailing careers. Steadman, a rising senior at Brown, will continue her career next year.
“St. Pete, as a city, has been a great sailing city for a very long time,” Baird said. “It’s exciting for us to be from there and hopefully to be coming back there.”
Contact Ryan Kolakowski at [email protected] Follow @RyanKolakowski.