OMAC’s New Prez Would Like to Get the Word Out

A small grassroots organization that helps promote a healthy athletic way of life
Sharon McCobb was the Old Montauk Athletic Club’s athlete of the year in 2011. Jack Graves

   The Old Montauk Athletic Club’s new president, Sharon McCobb, said during a conversation the other day that her chief goal was “to get people to know what our organization is.”
    “I’m surprised that after more than a decade people still don’t know what OMAC does: We’re a small grassroots organization that helps through modest grants, of $500 to $1,000 or so, to promote a healthy athletic way of life here, especially among young people.”
    “We’ve given money to the Y’s youth swim team for bathing suits, to the high school cross-country teams for trips to invitational meets at Brown University, to the Bonac on Board to Wellness program, to the high school softball team for its spring training trips to Florida, to the youth football organization, to the Springs Booster Club when it needed to restore funds for combined teams at the East Hampton Middle School last year, and to the I-Tri program. . . . And, while we’ll probably remain small — all of us are busy — we’d like to continue with that work, and perhaps start a scholarship at the high school too. I’ve yet to talk to Joe Vas [the East Hampton School District’s athletic director] about that. We haven’t decided what the criteria should be.”
    Speaking of I-Tri, for which she is one of the coaches, McCobb, a lifelong athlete who nevertheless sat out her sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade years upon her family’s return to this country from Japan, where she had competed in swimming, said, “It’s a great, great program — you see the kids blossom, kids who before joining didn’t know how to swim, how to ride a bike . . . it’s life-changing.”
    “I tried out for the swim team when we moved from Japan to Summit, N.J. — my father was an accountant for Exxon and we lived all over the world, moving every four or so years — but they said my time wasn’t good enough. I didn’t return to swimming until later in my life. I did run track, though.”
    “In Dubai?”
    “No, in Rome, where I went to high school. I did the hurdles, the long jump, the triple jump, and I sprinted. I was there four years. And I played volleyball.”
    She continued to play volleyball, at the varsity level, at Skidmore College, where she majored in psychology and business, “but it became too much. It was only Division III, but you missed all your classes because of the traveling and practicing. Finally, I said, ‘What am I doing?’ I did start swimming again, though, with a masters club there.”
    It was McCobb who set up I-Tri’s youth triathlon course at Maidstone Park in Springs, choosing, she said, “the middle distances [300-yard swim, 7-mile bike leg, and 1.5-mile run] that are deemed appropriate for 13-to-15-year-olds. At other youth triathlons, there are three distances in each event, geared to the age groups, but my head can’t handle all that,” she said with a smile. “That’s why I picked the middle ones.”
    The same youth course is used by I-Tri now for its Turbo Tri in June for adults, the popular program’s chief fund-raiser.
    The chief fund-raiser for OMAC is the Great Bonac 10K and 5K at the Springs Firehouse on Labor Day. It was, in fact, the first race McCobb, who was named OMAC’s athlete of the year in 2011 — and whose daughter, Lena Vergnes, set a school record in the racewalk last spring — did on moving here 18 years ago.
    “I took a year off,” she said, “and then I started running again, first on a treadmill at the Fitness Factory in Sag Harbor, where they provided day care for $3! The Day Care Learning Center here was super-affordable too. I owned the Springs General Store, you know. The runners came there, and pretty soon I was running with the group. It’s a running community here. I used to do my biking with Jimmy Minardi. Then, one day, somebody said, ‘Let’s do a triathlon,’ and so we did. That’s how it went — it becomes a way of life.”
    And with that she was off to coach a group of I-Tri girls, as she, Annette MacNiven, Amanda Husslein, and Diane O’Donnell do every Saturday afternoon at the Y.M.C.A. East Hampton RECenter, from March until June, “when we go to the course.”