Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol Powers Its Way to Three-peat Victory in Island Tournament

By DAVID BIGGY | Aug 09, 2017
Photo by: Grant Kelly

It was only appropriate that the oldest lifeguard on the Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol – and likely the oldest one competing on Aug. 5 – helped clinch another championship. After all, at 61, Mike Weiler has been through four decades of ups and downs with the Vikings and was part of the last Cedars squad to three-peat at the Long Beach Island Beach Patrol Association Island Tournament.

“I really train my butt off, but it’s worth it,” said Weiler, who teamed with 18-year-old Michaela Harvey to place second in the Mixed Doubles Row to secure the Vikings’ sixth tourney title and second three-peat since they did it in 1972, 1973 and 1974. “I was at Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey) the last time this happened, when the tournament had eight events. This tournament is totally different now. It really requires a broader diversity of athletes and a lot of depth. It’s incredible what our team just did.”

Cedars didn’t just reclaim its place as the premier team on the Island, the Vikings did so with an exclamation point, racking up 119 points and distancing itself from second-place Barnegat Light by 30 points. Ship Bottom ended up third with 84 points, followed by Surf City with 73. Long Beach Township and Beach Haven placed fifth and sixth, respectively.

“I don’t even know what to say anymore,” said Randy Townsend, Cedars’ captain. “The performance speaks for itself. I don’t think any of us figured it would be that much of a point spread between first and second. It’s pretty ridiculous.”

But just how dominating was this year’s effort? Last year, the Vikings won with 97 points and seven ahead of The Light in a five-team tournament that Beach Haven didn’t attend. Had this year’s tourney been a five-team affair, Cedars would have scored 100 points and won by 29. This time around, Cedars picked up three event victories it didn’t get last year and two of last year’s fourth-place finishes ended up as either a victory or runner-up spot. After two fourth-place finishes last year, Cedars finished below third in just one event this summer.

“We didn’t want to have a shadow of a doubt this year,” Townsend said. “We trained hard, practiced a lot, and we wanted to do as well as possible in each event. And our finish was great. I don’t know if we really can credit ourselves too much, or discredit any other patrol, for what just happened, but we did our best to make it happen and we were fortunate to come out this far ahead.”

During the first evening of competition on Aug. 4, the Vikings won five of the first seven events, with Jenna Parker opening up with an easy victory in the Women’s Paddle. After Surf City veterans Mark Dileo and Dave Bonanni cruised to the Mile Row crown, the HCBP duo of Jeff Shanley and Paul Blankemeyer won the Buoy Rescue – setting off a three-event win streak as the quartet of Billy Webster, Tim Goldstein, Ken Burkhardt and Townsend edged the Ship Bottom squad in the Paddleboard Relay, and Emily McHugh and Harvey easily swiped the top spot in the Women’s Doubles Row.

Following the Surfboat Rescue victory by Barnegat Light’s Don Paul Adams and Zak Westerberg, Webster capitalized on an unfortunate turn of events to win the Ironman for a second straight year. Webster was well behind Barnegat Light’s Nate Humberston as they rowed back to the beach on the final leg of the grueling, four-part event, but Humberston got turned 180 degrees and nearly lost one of his oars while trying to ride a wave to the beach. As Humberston righted himself, Webster caught a wave to the beach, hopped out of the boat and calmly ran to the finish line in first.

“I was pretty tired going into that row,” Webster said. “I didn’t have much in the way of waves in either the swim or the paddle, and I finally got that one in the row. I’ve done this event 16 times, so I know not to panic. But with Humby in the race, you have to worry about him because he’s really good. I saw that he got turned as I came in, and I was only wishing for a wave at that point.”

With Harvey Cedars holding a 14-point lead, the second evening of competition began with the Ironwoman – postponed from the previous night because of darkness – and immediately Parker set the tone for the Vikings, winning the event by some 400 feet ahead of Surf City’s Pepper Kolman. From there, Cedars didn’t falter much, winning three of the next six events to pull within 10 points of clinching the title with five events to go.

The Light’s Mike Smith, Nick Wierman and Max Jones repeated as the Line Pull champs, before Bonanni and Dileo returned to the surfboat and captured a second gold medal in the Men’s Doubles Row, a particularly impressive feat considering the Surf City tandem is a combined 90 years old.

“I took some time away to start a family with my wife, and I went through a couple of injuries,” said the 38-year-old Bonanni, who had last guarded in Surf City in 2012 before returning this season. “But I really wanted to get back, and Mark and I have a really good bond, a great friendship, so it feels great to get double gold with him here. We started training for this back in May, so our hard work paid off.”

When Bonanni and Dileo turned at the marker flag, they were followed closely by the tandems from Ship Bottom, Barnegat Light and Harvey Cedars. As they powered their way back through the mostly flat conditions, a swell eventually built behind them. They snagged it and fiercely stroked atop it, all the way to the beach, where Bonanni jumped out and easily ran to the finish as an exhausted Dileo huffed and puffed as the handlers corralled the boat and dragged it up the beach.

“Fifteen years ago, Dave was a frustrated new lifeguard who had to learn to row,” said the 52-year-old Dileo. “I told him, ‘Go 1 mile with me and we’re going to win it’ and I taught him to row. Now that he’s back, he’s re-taught me how to row. It’s been a lot of fun.”

After Cedars’ Maggie Shaw won the Women’s 1,000-foot Swim and Barnegat Light’s Mike Macchia defended his title in the Men’s 1,000-foot Swim, Townsend teamed with Ryan Corcoran to defend their crown in the Paddleboard Rescue. Otto Weiler then set up his dad’s title-clinching win with Harvey by capturing the Singles Row, outracing Ship Bottom veteran Tom Duralek during the final 200 feet.

“Tom Duralek is a bit of a personal hero to me,” said the younger Weiler, a first-time winner in the Island tourney. “Our launch was good. My turn was not good. And then as I’m rowing back I see Tom bearing down on me.”

Other than one wave that Weiler barely missed but crushed Barnegat Light’s Jason Jennings and filled his boat with a lot of water in the next lane to his north, Weiler had to churn through flat water during the last 800 feet.

“I saw that wave coming and I knew I had to beat it,” Weiler said. “It came up and I just got over it, but everybody to my north got hammered. At that point, I knew I had clean ocean ahead of me. But after the turn, I’m racing against Tom and I had nothing but flat water. I knew it was going to be a long row back to the beach, but I made it there first. To get my first win as we get set to clinch a three-peat, it’s pretty special.”

Township’s Fran Campana and Julianna Perello scored the win in the Mixed Doubles Row, but Mike Weiler and Harvey racing to the finish behind them pushed Cedars to 101 points with four events left, while a third-place spot by Barnegat Light ended its hopes of at least tying for the lead.

It ultimately wouldn’t have mattered, anyway, as Ship Bottom won the next three events. Tracey Hemmerle, Maggie Covert, Haley Ullinger and Kim Muldoon won the Women’s Paddle Relay, before Jonny Skolnick ended Humberston’s seven-year reign as the Men’s Paddleboard champ.

“That race was big for me,” said Skolnick, who snagged a solid wave while just out in front of Humberston with 150 feet to go. “I haven’t been in this race in seven years, mainly because I just don’t like the sprint. I’m better at longer distances. But (team captain) Mike Vile told me to do it for the team, so I did it. I saw that wave coming up. Nate just missed it and I got it. That was a great feeling. I’m stoked.”

After Skolnick’s big win, the Ship Bottom crew of Duralek, Marc Wagner, Tommy Smith, Pat Carey, Shawn Hannon and Duralek cruised to victory in the Surfboat Relay. The Light’s Smith, Westerberg and Nolan Kuskan capped the two-day tourney by easily winning the Surf Dash Relay as little light remained.

Now with another three-peat in the bag, the question is whether Harvey Cedars can continue its streak and possibly go on a dynasty-esque run as Barnegat Light did from 2009 to 2014, before Cedars rose to the top.

“Absolutely, we can do it,” Townsend said. “I believe we’ve had a dynasty building for the past six to seven years and the results didn’t necessarily show that with the Island races, but it definitely showed at other events. But we’ve been very competitive since 2010 when I took over the patrol. We’ve created a different culture in Harvey Cedars.”

And, no doubt, the target on the collective back of the Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol just got a little bit bigger.

“If you would have told me 10 years ago that I’d be standing on top of the podium with my team, holding the championship trophy just once at the Island tournament, I would have straight up laughed in your face,” Townsend said. “Now we have another challenge to face, starting next year, if not this year, and it’s exciting. And I guarantee there’s not one of our race-team members who’s not going to put in 190 percent between now and then, knowing that everybody else is coming after us.”

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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