Younger Crew Helps Push Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol to Fourth Straight Epic Tournament Title

By DAVID BIGGY | Jul 10, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy The Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol race team gathers after cruising to a fourth straight first-place finish in the Surf City Beach Patrol Epic Tournament on July 8.

Surf City — It’s just his third season with the Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol, but Shane Stauffer already feels like one of the leaders.

“Randy (Townsend) talked to Russ Hill and me at the beginning of the season and told us, ‘We’re going to show you what you’re going to be,’ and he was referring to us becoming leaders,” said Stauffer, one of the guards who helped the HCBP competition squad score 36 points to give the Vikings a fourth consecutive Surf City Beach Patrol Epic Tournament title on July 8.

“I’m already one of the Lifeguard-in-Training instructors and part of my role is to help guide a lot of young kids who are coming up how to be good lifeguards. We’re still a growing beach patrol, and we’re going to have a younger group competing a lot this summer because we’re the future.”

With several of the HCBP veterans hanging on the sidelines functioning mostly as cheerleaders, the younger guards pulled their weight well, helping to score first-place points in four of the five relay-style events.

Still, a few of the veterans were in the mix as well, particularly Townsend and Jenna Parker, who combined for a first-second finish in the Epic Run-Swim to send Cedars into the lead right from the start. Parker was in first following the run, while Townsend hung back a bit in the fifth position.

Once in the ocean, Townsend showed his excellent swimming skills by passing the four competitors in front of him, including Parker. He emerged from the surf in first place and finished just ahead of his longtime teammate and training partner. Townsend clocked a time of 22 minutes, 56 seconds, while Parker crossed the line in 23:04.

Not far behind them were Surf City’s Charlie Osborne (24:24) and Julia Rothstein (24:32), while Long Beach Township’s Liam Huy took third overall in 23:07 and Mia McCoobery completed Township’s third-place finish in 29:07. Ship Bottom’s Christina Fath and Alex Rekt also managed to tie for third.

In the Paddle Relay, HCBP veteran Joe Pantaleo led a mainly younger crew which included Gabby Sibilia, Emma Dries and Andrew Harvey to a first-place time of 15:59, while the SBBP foursome of Dan Cascio, Haley Ullinger, Tracey Hemmerle and Matt Hesier took second in 16:55 and the SCBP quartet of C.J. Turner, Maria Nitti, Pepper Kolman and Scotty Meggitt grabbed third in 18:12.

However, it was in the Swim Relay that Cedars created the separation needed to draw closer to the top position in the five-event tourney, and Stauffer led the way, pulling out in front of the pack by nearly 100 feet to give Sibilia a massive cushion which she extended. By the time Parker entered the water for the third leg, only a catastrophe would have prevented the Vikings from winning, and Hill sealed the deal to give his team the win in 20:06. Ship Bottom’s team of Rory Sinkinson, Cecelia Covery, Hemmerle and Reed Sinkinson finished second in 22:04, while Surf City’s squad grabbed third in 22:25.

With three events completed, Harvey Cedars led with 24 points, followed by Ship Bottom (16) and Surf City (14). But in the next event, the Mixed Doubles Block Pull-Row, Gaby Hartney – one of the team’s best female rowers – and Max Gaudioso prevented HCBP from running the table and gave their squad an outside shot at winning the tournament.

After Hartney busted through the sand and handed off the block in second place, Gaudioso kept his Surf City duo among the top three as they hopped into the surfboat for the second part of the race, a 1,500-foot row. Hartney and Gaudioso were the first to launch in what became a very chaotic race within seconds, as five of the six teams tried to break through the surf within 30 feet of each other.

Hartney and Gaudioso managed to break from the pack by a few dozen feet halfway through the opening 500 feet of the course. They turned the far marker still in first and cruised from there, using solid, smooth strokes to maintain the lead. With only 50 feet to go, Gaudioso hopped from the boat and ran the rest of the way.

“It’s all about getting out to the front,” Hartney said. “The block pull was tough, but we’ve been practicing a lot on a longer course and I think that helped us. In the boat, we wanted to get to the front as quickly as we could and then get on the inside of the course. Once we passed the third marker, we got a small wave that helped us get to the beach. It feels great to win this one. We wanted to show that we were still in this tournament.”

With LBTBP duo Taylor and Jason Jennings taking second in 4:24, and HCBP’s Julia Gilbert and Otto Weiler snagging third in 4:25, the Cedars lead dwindled to six points with one event left, the Ironman Medley Relay.

After the Vikings’ Kaue Ritchie ran the opening leg of the course and tagged Sibilia for the swim, the only question that remained was whether any of the other teams’ second-leg competitors would catch the former Duquesne University swimmer. None of them did, as Sibilia emerged from the surf with 100-foot lead before tagging Parker, who ultimately was caught and passed by Surf City’s Meggitt during the last 100 feet of the third leg.

Hartney and Anna Esposito were launched ahead of Weiler and first-time rower Nicole Piskorzewski, but the last leg of the race became a chess match within the first 1,000 feet. After Hartney and Esposito cleared the third marker with a slight lead, Weiler and Piskorzewski took a tighter path around it, trying to take an angle that would lead to a shorter exit along a sandbar to the inside of the course.

The strategy worked. As Weiler and Piskorzewski pulled alongside Hartney and Esposito with 100 feet left, a small wave pushed the Cedars boat to the exact spot Weiler wanted. With Esposito and Hartney caught in the surf a bit farther northward on the course, Weiler easily jumped out and ran to the finish line, Piskorzewski not far behind.

“This was Nicole’s first time competing in the boat and the first rule, in general as well as competition, is to stay calm,” Weiler said of the second-year guard who swam for the Barnegat High School girls swim team during the winter. “The next thing you want is to be on the same page, and we pulled our oars well. For her first race, Nicole was great. I’m exceedingly proud of her.”

Behind Harvey Cedars, Surf City finished second with 28 points, while Ship Bottom swiped third with 23 points, and Long Beach Township ended up in fourth with 16 points, well ahead of Island Beach State Park and Barnegat Light.

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