Chase Christens Boats in Honor of Petit Women


Published: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 7:10 AM EDT


WATERBURYChase Collegiate School’s rowing team christened three racing shells in honor of Michaela Rose, Hayley Elizabeth and Jennifer Hawke-Petit on May 12.

Over 200 community members attended the event at Quassapaug Lake, Middlebury.

The girls’ father, Dr. William Petit, gifted the boats to the school in his daughters’ and wife’s memory. Michaela and Hayley attended Chase, and Hayley, who rowed at Miss Porter’s School, planned to row at Dartmouth.

“As a school we are proud to be gathered here today to celebrate the lives of Michaela, Hayley and Jennifer,” said Chase’s Headmaster John Fixx in his speech, thanking Dr. Petit.

“Chase will always cherish their lives and their memories will endure at their school. Your active citizenship and unwavering care is inspiring and heart bending.”

The boats — some of the most sophisticated in the area for the high school circuit — have set the Chase Rowing Team on a competitive path.

They will be distinct for that reason, but will also stand out for the design created by Roxbury artist, William Cole, who is also a high school friend and former rowing teammate of Chase’s coach, Lincoln Turner.

Though Mr. Turner himself is an artist, he asked his friend who “in a very short time” sent him a sketch of a heart on the deck of three racing shells.

“It was perfect,” he said.

“When the bows of all three boats are touching, the white lines on their decks form a heart. The Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and the Hayley Elizabeth Petit surround the Michaela Rose, whose own stripes connect and unify the heart design. It is a moving sight to see.”

On the day of the christening, Mr. Turner also expressed his gratitude to Dr. Petit for his generous gift to the team for many seasons to come: “Dr. Petit, you have given us an extraordinary gift that has, quite literally, transformed our team. We are, after all, a racing team whose goal is to be competitive, to race and win.

“To be sure, your gift has helped us achieve that goal, but the beauty of these boats lies not in the carbon fiber and aluminum from which they are made; the beauty of your gift is that every time these children lift them overhead and roll them gently into the water, they remember and celebrate the lives of Michaela, Haley and Jennifer.”

Chase’s crew team began in 2008, racing its first regatta in 2009, and it has grown in strength and ability since. Last year, the girls’ team won the Lower Boat Regatta hosted by Rumsey Hall.

Three of Michaela’s classmates are currently on the team: Alicia Payne, Robert Reinhardt and Victoria Gilbert.

Senior Captains Julian Egan-Shuttler of Woodbury, Alysa Longo of Wolcott, Jessica Cook of Cheshire and Noah Wisch of Litchfield also each briefly and poignantly addressed the crowd.

“Having these boats is so special because of what they represent, and who they represent,” said Ms. Longo, on behalf of her team.

“We’re no longer racing for ourselves. Every time we step into our boats, we’re rowing for Hayley, for Micheala and for Jennifer. They are our motivation, and it’s an honor to be in these boats and to be a part of this.”

Dr. Petit also addressed the crowd, telling of Hayley’s growth as a rower from an alternate in the last boat to one of the best first boat rowers. She went on to be recruited by Dartmouth.

He also remembered Michaela as a “friend to all,” and his wife, Jennifer, who was a nurse and someone “always thinking about what might be best for the students at Chase Collegiate School.”

Rev. Peggy Dibble Allen, a 1973 alumna of Chase and pastor, presided over the blessing.

Following the christening, the team raced Hopkins School, who arrived early to participate in the ceremony, and also donated to the Michaela Rose Petit Scholarship Fund.

Since the time of Michaela’s tragic passing, 377 donors in the Chase community and across the nation have contributed over $91,000 to the Michaela Rose Petit Scholarship Fund at Chase.

In closing, Coach Turner turned to his team and said, “It is my wish for each of you that you honor and celebrate the Petit family with every stroke you take, and with every act of good will, sportsmanship and compassion you demonstrate to your teammates and your competitors alike.

“And with that, his team took to the water for the first race in their newly christened boat, the Michaela Rose Petit, to race Hopkins. Dr. Petit was on the sideline to witness his daughter’s boat edge in a victory.