Dileo Takes on New Partner for Barnegat Bay Challenge But Result Is the Same

By DAVID BIGGY | Aug 22, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Even at 53, Mark Dileo still believes he has what it takes to keep rowing well and winning races.

“The older I get, what I don’t have in terms of physical power I make up for it with technique,” Dileo said following the Ship Bottom Beach Patrol Barnegat Bay Challenge on Aug. 20. “I may not be as strong as I was 10 or 15 years ago, but I’m a better rower because I’ve gotten better at the technique.”

Dileo and first-time rowing partner Chris Bigos proved technique matters, as they cruised through the 5-mile course to capture the Van Duyne championship ahead of Margate’s John Swift and Mick Cote.

“Mark won this race with Dave Bonnani last year, and I rowed with Dave for almost 20 years,” said Bigos, one of Dileo’s part-timers on the Surf City Beach Patrol nowadays. “Mark was looking for a partner for this race and I had the time to work out with him, so we started rowing together. I never rowed in the bow before this year, but I made the adjustment.”

Following the start just to the west of the beach at 13th Street in Ship Bottom, Dileo and Bigos got out near the front quickly, and once they made the first turn around Flat Island they developed a solid rhythm. As they powered through the wind heading northward toward Cedar Bonnet Island, the Surf City and Margate tandems created some separation from the rest of the field.

“That’s when we turned it up,” Dileo said. “As we were going north, I kept telling Chris we had to get some separation from the Margate guys. We know the course, so we knew we could use that open water to create that separation. And once you get a few yards between you and the other boat, you can get away. We got away at the right time.”

Once Bigos and Dileo turned Cedar Bonnet and had the wind heading back toward 13th Street, they finished strong, easily several hundred yards ahead of the Margate pair. Ship Bottom’s duo of Shawn Hannon and Jim LaMarco finished third, despite somehow losing an oar and taking the time to retrieve it.

“I wanted to win it again,” Dileo said. “And Chris is an elite rower like Dave, so I knew we had a good shot going into the race.”

Mostly recovered from his grueling race across the Hawaii’s Ka’iwi Channel in the Molokai-2-Oahu Paddleboard World Championships three weeks earlier, Jonny Skolnick had as good a shot as any of the prone paddlers in the field to win on Monday. Unfortunately, Skolnick invited some of his paddling friends to compete in the race as well.

“Jonny beat me in the 17-mile and 22-mile races earlier this summer, but I learned a lesson in those races,” said Spring Lake’s Dan Grothues, who held off Skolnick for the victory. “In those races, I got stuck paddling with a couple of guys and Jonny took off. This time, he got caught paddling with a couple of guys and I left him there.”

Still, as Grothues zipped past the second bridge, he looked back to see Skolnick not far behind.

“I was a bit scared at that point,” he said. “I looked back and he was coming in real hot. If we had another quarter-mile to go, he would have caught me. I didn’t beat him by much, but I’ll take it.”

Sean Brennan, a former Ship Bottom lifeguard and now an engineer living in Robbinsville, took his victory over friend and training comrade Eric Costanza in stride, easily winning the surf ski race with a smile on his face.

“We race a lot together,” said Brennan, who won the International and American Ironman events at the U.S. Lifesaving Association National Championships in 1998. “My big concern was weed, because I have a deep rudder on my board. I had to get out in front of Eric by a pretty good distance, so that if I had to slow down or stop to clear weed off my rudder I wouldn’t give up too much.”

Brennan not only beat Costanza, he was the first overall finisher of the Monday’s race.

“Eric’s an outstanding athlete,” he said. “I knew I had to get a lead and keep it. I never let up on him.”

In the women’s prone paddleboard race, Grace Emig finished first, followed by Tracey Hemmerle and Haley Ullinger, while the women’s standup paddleboard winner was Carly Scallon, followed by Kate McBride and Andrea Kahikina. The men’s standup paddleboard victory went to Sven Peltonen, while Ed Okimsky grabbed second and Kenny Bolcerski took third. The open division was won by David Wolf, followed by Lauren Rothstein and Brittany Histing in second and Zeke Hill in third.


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