Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol Continues Its Reign in the Island Tournament

By DAVID BIGGY | Aug 08, 2018
Photo by: Margot Miller

Randy Townsend is now convinced the Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol can safely label itself as one of the higher standards for what a beach patrol should be – not only dedicated to great public safety, like all the other patrols on Long Beach Island, but athletically a cream-of-the-crop crew.

“After four years of winning this, I’d say we’re there. It’s kind of hard to deny it now,” said the HCBP captain after his squad cruised to a fourth straight Island Lifeguard Tournament championship on Aug. 4. “We used to be a doormat. That’s not the case anymore.”

Indeed it’s not. Harvey Cedars scored 114 points en route to its seventh title overall, becoming the only beach patrol besides Barnegat Light to capture the Island championship four or more times in a row. The Light, which has 22 titles either as part of the state park or on its own, has won six straight titles twice – from 1962 through 1967 and then from 2009 through 2014. Cedars’ run started in 2015.

“Today it was a bit unnerving for me,” Townsend conceded. “We were leading going into the second half of the tournament, but it was only 10 points. And I thought about it a little bit on the ride here – anything could have happened today and we could have finished second or third. Barnegat Light has always been the standard of excellence in this tournament, and they were right there again. And Surf City put up a fight as well. We needed to come up big today.”

Going by what had occurred at the end of Friday’s first half of competition, Townsend had some reason to be a bit concerned. Both Billy Webster and Jenna Parker – the reigning Ironman and Ironwoman champs – got hammered by waves on their rowing legs and ended up second and third, respectively, allowing Surf City and The Light to remain within easy striking distance.

And things looked even a bit more shaky as the first two events unfolded on the second night. After Mike Smith, Andrew Ro and Nick Weirman scored a victory for BLBP in the Line Pull, Ship Bottom – definitely not out of the picture by any stretch – swiped first-place points when Pat Carey and Mike Cascio won the Men’s Doubles Row.

At that point, with nine events left, Cedars still was ahead of Barnegat Light and Surf City by 10 points, while Ship Bottom had closed its gap to 13. Fortunately, the Vikings scored a combined 14 points when Maggie Shaw won the Women’s 1,000-foot Swim and Jarrod Shoemaker followed Barnegat Light’s Mike Macchia out of the ocean in the Men’s 1,000-foot Swim, pushing their lead back to 12 over The Light, as Surf City and Ship Bottom failed to keep pace.

After Joe Pantaleo and Townsend easily won the Paddleboard Rescue, Cedars’ lead was up to 17 points, but The Light wasn’t going away. Don Adams, who had won the Singles Row a bunch of times during the previous 10 tournaments, returned to the top of the podium by easily winning the event yet again.

“A few days ago, I wasn’t scheduled to do this race,” said the 41-year-old Adams. “But we needed somebody to do it, and they asked me. It was a nice, easy row tonight, and it’s nice to have won this race in three different decades. But this might be the last time I do this race. When I was 21, this was a great race to do. At 41, it’s not such a great race to do. But I’m glad I’m back on top.”

In the next event, the Mixed Doubles Row, The Light’s Christian DiAntonio and Laura Patterson finished second behind three-time defending champs Fran Campana and Julianna Perello of Long Beach Township, cutting HCBP’s lead back to 11 points with four events to go.

Parker, Shaw, Gabby Sibilia and rookie Emma Dires pushed the Vikings closer to title No. 4 when they wrecked the field in the Women’s Paddle Relay, and then all Pantaleo had to do was finish in either of the top two positions in the Men’s Paddle to clinch it. Surf City’s Scott Meggitt led for much of the race and finished first, with Pantaleo not far behind.

“At the second turn, I didn’t know who was behind me. All I knew was I had to be the only one behind Scotty,” said Pantaleo, who first joined the Cedars crew four summers ago when it ended Barnegat Light’s title run in 2015. “Four years ago, we were fighting just to dethrone Barnegat Light. But our motivation is different now; we’re fighting to stay at the top. I’m glad I was able to clinch it and keep us at the top.”

Barnegat Light’s six-man team of Weirman, DiAntonio, Adams, Zak Westerberg, Ben Scheipe and Seth Livsey won the Surfboat Relay and Westerberg, Macchia and Nolan Kuskan scored the eight points for winning the Surf Dash Relay, but The Light ended up second as a team with 97 points. Surf City finished third with 81 points, followed by Ship Bottom with 79.

During the first night of competition, Julia Rothstein gave Surf City the initial lead with an easy victory in the Women’s Paddle, but Kevin Wessler and J.J. Weiss sent Cedars into the lead to stay when they arrived to the beach first in the grueling Mile Row. Ted Slahetka and Kuscan won the Buoy Rescue to keep BLBP close, but Townsend, Webster, Ken Burkhardt and Tim Goldstein repeated as champs in the Paddle Relay to stretch the gap.

Mike Weiler and Ryan Corcoran later won the Surfboat Rescue, after Ship Bottom’s Haley Ullinger and Katie Farrell took the top spot in the Women’s Doubles Row. With sunset nearly upon them, Barnegat Light’s Mike Smith upended Webster in the Ironman event, before Surf City’s Pepper Kolman scored the upset in the Ironwoman.

In the men’s race, Smith literally led Webster by only 10 yards as they were launched off the beach for the final, rowing leg of the race. As Smith powered his way through the surf, Webster cleared one decent-sized wave about 100 feet offshore, but got hammered by a bigger one seconds later, sending him backward and his boat full of water. As Smith turned the marker, Webster was re-launched.

“As we were being launched, I was scared,” Smith said afterward. “I mean, when Billy Webster – who’s probably won this event a dozen times – is right next to you going into the row, that’s not the ideal situation. Besides that, I’m not really a rower. This was only the seventh time this summer I’ve rowed in the ocean.

“Fortunately for me, Billy didn’t fare too well with the waves. That’s what it takes to beat him. So, when I saw that happen, I was very relieved. Now I can say, thankfully, that I have a 100 percent winning percentage in the Ironman.”

In the women’s event, Kolman was 75 yards behind Parker as she was being launched into the rapidly swelling Atlantic. Ultimately, the difference was that Parker – whose boat handlers held her for nearly two minutes as they tried to wait out eight consecutive waves before pushing her forward – also got hammered by a monster wave, and Kolman stroked through the surf relatively unscathed at the southern end of the course.

“I didn’t see what had happened to Jenna until I was halfway out to the marker,” she said. “I was tired. But once I realized I was out in front, I got this big adrenaline rush. Anything can happen out here, and I got the break I needed, so I was gone at that point. I reached the marker and said to myself, ‘I got this.’ I couldn’t wait to get back to the beach.”

Still, over the long haul, Cedars’ depth and experience were the key factors. And now the target on the Vikings’ collective back gets just a bit larger for next summer.

“Every year, it doesn’t go how we expect,” Townsend said. “The ocean’s always the X-factor. But, for sure, our depth is our biggest advantage. And this fourth championship is a testament to our dedication as a beach patrol – not just to our training and practices, but our commitment to being the best at what we do every day to keep the public safe on our beaches.”

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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