The prevailing thought around Derek Hopkins' performance over the weekend was that the 18-year old made it look easy in winning the Friday, Saturday and Sunday competitions, becoming just the second walker to ever achieve that feat since the greasy pole was expanded to three days and 1999.
The way Hopkins was able to keep his balance while maintaining his pace on a greasy pole that was still covered in grease (at least that was the case on Saturday and Sunday when he won as the first walker in the second round) looked effortless. Of course, a ton of effort goes into walking the greasy pole, as hundreds of other walkers can confirm, ones with and without a flag.
Hopkins was so good that he made a difficult task look like just another day at the office, and his performance has made him the talk of the town as it was one of the all time greatest fiesta sports achievements.
Hopkins joins Jake Wood as the only two walkers to ever sweep the Friday, Saturday and Sunday greasy poles, Wood completing the sweep in 1999 for his three of his seven total greasy pole flags.
So where does Hopkins' performance over the weekend rank in terms of the greatest sports achievements in the St. Peter's Fiesta? That's a very subjective question. But what's not subjective is the fact that he belongs in the conversation.
Here's a look at some more all time great accomplishments in St. Peter's Fiesta sports, both in a single year and career milestones, a club that now has a new member after Hopkins grabbed three flags and dropped the jaws of thousands of spectators this past weekend.
Jake Wood three-peat: Wood's aforementioned three-peat in 1999 was the first of its kind, and only two walkers came close to duplicating it before Hopkins pulled it off again on Sunday. Stew McGilivray and Randy Sweet won both Friday and Saturday in 2004 and 2017 respectively. Ironically it was Wood who stopped McGillivray's bid for three in a row. Just how impressive is it to win multiple flags in the same year? It has only happened four times in the last 40 years and only five times since the greasy pole did not allow walkers to walk both days unless they won on Saturday. Anthony "Matza" Giambanco was the first to complete a back-to-back sweep in 1975, it happened several times before 1975, when walkers were permitted to walk both days.
Peter Frontiero's streak: We saw the greatest single year streak of greasy pole wins matched this past weekend, but Peter "Black" Frontiero still holds what may be the most difficult record to top as he won the Sunday competition seven years in a row from 1987-1993. Fronteiro is second all time with nine greasy pole flags, trailing only Salvi Benson's 11. Seven in a row is a feat that is going to be tough to beat.
Benson wins 10 in eight years: Walkers can not walk both the Saturday and Sunday greasy poles in the same year any longer, not counting the Saturday champ. But that doesn't make Salvi Benson's run from 1967-1974 any less impressive. Benson took down 10 flags in that time span, winning on both days in both 1968 and 1971 while taking down six Sunday flags, including four in a row from 1971-74, and four Saturday flags, including three in a row from 1967-69. He's the all time champ for a reason.
The Kids: Jumping over to the world of seine boats, the Kids win in 1977 is still talked about to this day, and for good reason. A group of teenagers, most which just graduated high school weeks before, entered the Men's Seine Boat Division with the least big race experience. All they did was win the championship. The Kids' win back in '77 set the stage for what was to come in the sport as that crew turned in over 100 combined championships throughout the next four decades from its rowers. The Kids went on to win three in a row from 1980-82 and are considered one of the greatest crews of all time.
Desire wins four straight: When it comes to the all time seine boat win streak, Desire still holds the mark with four in a row from 1983-86. Three other crews have won three in a row, the aforementioned Kids, Raging Bulls (1987-89) and Kaos (2009-11), but only Desire has been able to pull off four in a row. A record that looks like it's going to stand for a while as it has become more and more difficult to win two straight seine boat championships, forget four.
Affirmative Action and Oar'Dacious: When the Women's Seine Boat Division was formed in 1996, a super crew took the division by storm in Affirmative Action, who won five straight championships from 1996-2000, the longest win streak in the history of the sport, one that has not been matched in any division. One crew came close, Oar'Dacious, who won four in a row from 2009-2012, but saw Rowgue spoil their bid for a fifth. Oar'Dacious, however, holds the women's record with seven total championships from 2005-14.
SEINE BOAT RACES DELIVER AS USUAL
Speaking of seine boat races, they delivered again this year as both the Men's and Women's Divisions had a thrilling week of races with a new champion crowned.
In the Men's Division, the Merger earned its second title in three years, holding off the Resolute by a little less than a boat to capture the championship. The Merger, a highly experienced crew led by coxswain Vito Giacalone with multiple time champs in just about every seat, showed off that experience on Sunday.
The Merger looked like a crew that has competed in several championship races as they were in control from the start and expertly held off a final push from the Resolute. If any crew can go back-to-back, it's this one given its experience in big races.
It has been an incredibly difficult task to repeat as champion in the Men's Division as no crew has done it since Kaos won three in a row from 2009-11. Since then, we've seen Closing Time, Kaos, Wharf Rats, Lock 'n Load, Forza Furia, The Merger, Iron Village and the Merger again claim victory.
Apparently having two races to get ready for the final is a big advantage as not only has the defending champ lost on Sunday the following year, it has finished in third place in six of the last seven years. That just shows how much parity there is in the sport right now, and that's a great thing as it has led to some unforgettable races during that time span.
In the Women's Division, Backlash put history on hold with an impressive win over two-time defending champion Rowgue by a little more than a boat. Rowgue looked dominant in winning the previous two seine boat titles and was going for a fifth overall championship (which would have tied them with Affirmative Action for second all time) and a third in a row.
Backlash, which retooled a bit this year with some new additions, had other plans as Julie Geary had her boat in control of the race from start to finish as well. While Backlash could never really shake Rowgue, it also never let Rowgue cut into their lead. It was a near perfect performance at the perfect time and Backlash is now a two-time champ, a big feather in their cap as there is a massive difference between winning one championship and winning two.
Multiple Time Greasy Pole Champs
2019- Derek Hopkins (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
2017- Randy Sweet (Friday, Saturday)
2004- Stew McGillivary (Friday, Saturday)
1999- Jake Wood (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
1975- Anthony "Matza" Giambanco (Saturday, Sunday)
1971- Salvi Benson (Saturday, Sunday)
1968- Salvi Benson (Saturday, Sunday)
1966- Tom "Wolfman" Cavanaugh (Saturday, Sunday)
1965- Phil Curcuru (Saturday, Sunday)
1963- Phil Curcuru (Saturday, Sunday)
1956- Carlo "Sleepy" Pallazola (Saturday, Sunday)
1955- John "Beanie" Nicastro (Saturday, Sunday)
1953- Tommy Misuraca (Saturday, Sunday)
1946- Joe Marino (Saturday, Sunday)
1932- Oritano Vincenzo (Saturday, Sunday)
1931- Oritano Vincenzo (Saturday, Sunday)
*Walkers were permitted to walk on both Saturday and Sunday up until sometime in the 1970's.
2019 St. Peter's Fiesta Champions
Friday, Saturday and Sunday Greasy Pole: Derek Hopkins
Men's Seine Boats: The Merger- Coxswain Vito Giacalone, scuttler Joe Balbo, Chris Giacalone, Dylan Morrissey, Vito Giacalone, Clayton Morrissey, Nick Giacalone, Mike Mitchell, Marc Giacalone, Joe Giacalone, Seth Morrissey, Lukas McRobb.
Women's Seine Boats: Backlash- Coxswain Julie Geary, scuttler Jack Alexander, Andria Picano, Rachael Cecilio, Caitlyn Shatford, Ashley Smith, Samantha Cominelli, Katie Knowlton, Tess Destino, Kate Morrissey, Alissa Joe Sousa, Amanda Goveny.
Women's Junior Seine Boats: Uproar-Coxswain Nikki Parisi, scuttler Mike Harmon, Taylor Abbott, Claire Knowlton, Haley Glaser, Emily Kenyon, Sophia Caldwell, Lizzy Luster, Whitney Schrock, Zoe Venetsanakos, Gabby Machado, Marisa Enes.
Men's Junior Seine Boats: Family Strokes- Coxswain Jerry Ciaramitaro, scuttler Alex Rodolosi, Connor Vittands, Jason Lavero, Timmy Marrone, Robby Schuster, Ryan Frates, Jeremy Abreu, Dan O’Leary, Ryan Bergin, Toby Campbell, Jack Costanzo.
Fiesta 5k: Mike Darnell, Megan Lindstedt.