Beach Haven Crest Crew Back on Top of the Mayor’s Cup Podium

Jul 25, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy The Beach Haven Crest squad celebrates its victory in the 33rd annual Long Beach Township Beach Patrol Mayor’s Cup tournament on July 20.

Typically, the Ironman and Ironwoman are separate events. But when the Long Beach Township Beach Patrol’s 33rd annual Mayor’s Cup was changed from a two-day competition to one day because of Saturday’s rainy weather forecast, Beach Haven Crest’s Peter Durning and Mia McCoobery became an Iron-duo for what became the final event.

The tandem not only made tournament history by competing together in the makeshift event – dubbed the “Ironperson Relay” for what had become the 11-event Mayor’s Cup on July 20 – but scored a victory to give The Crest its first title since 2011 and its 13th overall.

“Right before I got into the boat for the first leg of the race, somebody came up to me and said, ‘We’re winning by one point. If you don’t win we’re screwed.’ So, I went into the race knowing what it meant,” said Durning, a fifth-year lifeguard. “But it wasn’t like I was doing the event by myself. I was only doing half of it. That was a bit of a changeup, but I had complete confidence in Mia.”

While it was determined prior to the race that Durning would complete the first rowing and third swimming portions of the race, his partner – a rookie lifeguard who had made her Mayor’s Cup debut just two events before that in the Women’s Paddle Relay – was set to complete the second running and final paddle portions of the race.

“I was super nervous,” said McCoobery, who hails from New York City but has been coming to the Island with her family since early childhood, and has been training with Durning every day this summer. “I’ve been competing in sports my whole life, but nothing like this. And to be in this brand new event that was decided upon only a few hours ago, with the pressure of being ahead by only a point, was crazy. But I knew I had the support of our entire patrol behind me.”

After Durning completed the row in second place, he tagged McCoobery for the run portion, and she trekked across the sand to the north only 15 yards behind Holgate’s Jules Perello. It didn’t take her long to get to the front, and when she tagged Durning for the swim, his lead was about 40 yards. By the time he made it back to the beach, the lead was 100 yards. Despite Holgate’s Fran Campana narrowing the gap a bit, McCoobery easily paddled to a first-place finish, giving The Crest 48 points.

Spray Beach, which had trailed by that one-point margin going into the last event, took third in the final relay and finished with 43 points, while Loveladies-North Beach ended up third in the team standings with 41 points, followed by Holgate with 35 and Brant Beach with 31.

The last time Beach Haven Crest scored victory in the Mayor’s Cup, it was the completion of a three-year reign from 2009 to 2011. Prior to that, BHC had won five other times during the 2000s, including a four-peat from 2002 through 2006. The Crest also won back-to-back titles in 1998 and 1999.

But with a shortened race schedule to fit 11 events into one evening and a lot of parity among the patrols in the annual intrasquad competition, winning wasn’t as easy as it had been during some previous years. In fact, the North End crew put immediate pressure on BHC in the Mile Row – the tournament’s grueling first event – when Mike Moran and Josh Bligh easily rowed to victory.

“We had a lot of chop and swell to cut through out there,” said Bligh, who was recovering from bronchitis but decided to row anyway. “It was a rough one, but once you get out ahead of everybody else, you just have to maintain that lead. I’ve been in a boat that’s won this event a dozen times, so I’m pretty good at navigating this course.”

Still, as soon as Evan Seeger and Austin Nisonoff took third in the Mile Row and patrol captain Josh Wall won the Men’s Paddle, The Crest got out to the front and remained there the rest of the way. Jackie Carlin finished second behind Spray’s Emma Brennan in the Women’s Paddle, before Durning grabbed second behind Holgate’s Tim Hogan in the Men’s Swim and Julia Salvidore managed a fourth-place finish in the Women’s Swim to give BHC a three-point lead before the other hardcore event – the Line Pull.

For that, Wall teamed with swimmer Tim Caufield and fellow line-tugger Nick George. And while Caufield took his time getting out through the surf, once he attached the fins to his feet he easily passed the field of swimmers to hit the buoy marker first. Wall and George then pulled him to the beach, winning by a sizable gap over Brant Beach’s crew of Austin Kreusser, Ian Grey and Brent Bartzak.

“Because the format changed for the tournament, we made some lineup changes and moved a few people around, but that left us with a hole for the Line Pull, so I filled the hole,” said Wall, who last year didn’t compete because he was recovering from surgery to repair the acromioclavicular joint in his right shoulder. “I haven’t done this event in a while, and at (age) 42 it’s kind of tough. But I feel great and I’m pumped.”

During the next two events – the Women’s Doubles Row and Men’s Paddle Relay – what had been an eight-point lead for The Crest fizzled down four points, and then dipped to three after the Spray Beach trio of Jill Middleton, Katie Roth and Brennan scored a victory in the Women’s Paddle Relay, easily ahead of BHC’s Carlin, McCoobery and Julia McGowan.

“I knew the Crest girl to my left (McCoobery) was going to be a challenge for me, but I absolutely had to get out to the lead somehow,” Middleton said. “As long as I got out to the lead, I knew Katie and Emma could maintain it.”

Another second-place finish by Spray Beach in the Mixed Doubles Row knocked the lead down to a point heading into the last event, with Loveladies-North Beach only two points back of the lead patrol. But in the end, The Crest reigned yet again.

“It’s been a while for us,” Wall said. “A lot of things have changed over the years, and competitions are a bit different for us nowadays. But we’re back at the top, and that’s really cool.”

— David Biggy

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