Barnegat Light LIT Wins Paddle Race at USLA Junior Nationals

Aug 22, 2018
Supplied photo

Hugh Shields started with the Barnegat Light Beach Patrol Lifeguard-in-Training program when he was 10, and at the outset paddleboarding wasn’t his forte.

“I kind of sucked at it for the first few years,” said Shields, now 14. “Then, a couple of years ago, I started doing extra practices with them. I figured that I had to pick up the pace, to get better so I can compete with the older guys.”

All that extra practice has paid off. Shields recently won the board race in the 14/15-year-old A Division during the recent U.S. Lifesaving Association Junior National Championships in Virginia Beach, Va.

“I went to a regional tournament in Wildwood in early August, and when I got there I won the paddle race,” said Shields, a student at Friends’ Central School in Wynnewood, Pa., where he plays soccer, swims and runs track. “From there, I found out about USLA Nationals and thought I might try the paddle race there as well.

“I was debating whether I’d go, because I was going back to school soon and didn’t really want to miss the day at the beach. But my dad said we would only go for the day and come right back, so I decided two days before to do it.”

The only junior lifeguard representing Long Beach Island in the tournament, Shields outraced Christian Quinones of Pompano Beach, Fla. Pompano Beach’s Raphael Santos was third, while Jones Beach (N.Y.) State Park’s Jack Nixon and Owen Glaser finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

“Going into it, I wasn’t expecting to win,” Shields said. “I just went there looking to see if I’d do well. But halfway through the race, I was in the lead. The water was really flat, so I really had to power through it and hope nobody passed me on the way in to the beach. I had to sprint to the finish. I beat the second-place guy by two body lengths.”

The USLA is comprised of hundreds of beach patrols and open water rescuers in all regions of the country. Los Angeles County in California has been the perennial powerhouse in the main competition for decades, while Monmouth County typically sends a strong contingent to the national competition.

Rounding out the top 10 behind Shields were Virginia Beach’s Mike Rogerson in sixth, Monmouth County’s Christopher Hall in seventh, L.A. County’s Cameron Eickhoff in eighth, Jones Beach’s Richie Chiarella in ninth and Monmouth County’s Alex Piasecki in 10th.

David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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