Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol Wins Epic Tourney for Third Straight Time

By DAVID BIGGY | Jul 04, 2018
Photo by: Margot Miller

Heading into the last event of the Surf City Epic Lifeguard Tournament on July 2, the Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol wasn’t in the clear. Barnegat Light still had a shot to snatch the tournament title out from under Cedars.

Joe Pantaleo, Emily McHugh and Kevin Wessler made sure the Vikings sealed the deal.

“Every time we line up for the start of a race, everybody’s pretty much even. Everybody has a shot to win,” Pantaleo said shortly after Cedars gathered for a team photo with the first-place trophy. “We definitely have a lot of teamwork, and every individual really does what he or she can to help make us the best team we can be. We all have our parts and do them.”

Leading by five points over Barnegat Light, Pantaleo caught and passed Ship Bottom’s Kim Muldoon during the paddle leg of the Medley Relay, before McHugh and Wessler dropped the hammer on the final leg to give Cedars 34 points. The Light finished second with 24, edging Surf City by way of a tiebreaker, and Ship Bottom took the fourth spot with 20 points.

“Kevin did a great job of staying close to the markers,” McHugh said. “We got out to the second mark pretty fast and saw that Surf City and Ship Bottom got tied up with their oars. Then we got a little runner on the way in and it was easy from there.”

With Randy Townsend in Cape May for the SuperAthlon competition, Cedars had to utilize a bit more of its depth than it’s had to in recent Epic tourneys – a five-event, relay-style competition in which teams must use both male and female guards for each event. And the Vikings’ depth showed when it counted.

After two events and the Light, Surf City and Cedars tied with12 points, the four-leg Swim Relay started with Ship Bottom out in front, but Barnegat Light’s second swimmer grabbed the lead midway through the next leg. That lead remained until Cedars’ third swimmer, Maggie Shaw, who started about 60 yards behind the lead pair, caught and passed the leaders as they neared the beach.

Shaw exited the water first, tagged Jenna Parker, who had a mere 10-yard lead going into the water, and it was Parker’s job to maintain the lead. Instead, she stretched it to about 25 yards before yielding that lead to young Shane Stauffer, one of the team’s up-and-comers, with Barnegat Light’s Mike Macchia in pursuit.

Macchia, the defending Ocean Mile Swim champion who just finished his freshman year of collegiate swimming, closed the gap by the second marker and passed Stauffer by the third. With about 150 feet left, a swell in the ocean gave way to the little wave Stauffer needed to surge back into the lead. Only 20 feet to Stauffer’s south, the water never rose behind Macchia and he was left trying to chase down Stauffer once again.

Stauffer emerged from the ocean with a comfortable lead, and he exited and jogged to the finish line without concern. Macchia hit the beach as Stauffer cleared the finish line. Surf City ended up third.

In the next event, the Mixed Doubles Block Pull and Row, Ship Bottom’s Shawn Hannon and Haley Ullinger trailed the rest of the pack heading into the row portion of the race but took only half of it to grab the lead. Hannon and Ullinger rowed tight to the markers and by the third one were just ahead of Wessler and McHugh. The boats pulled even with about 100 feet to the beach, but the SBBP tandem took a straighter line to the finish, and once close enough to the beach they hopped from the boat and crossed the line in first.

“Shawn and I had rowed together once before, a few years ago,” Ullinger said after the race. “But we’ve been training hard. We just did 4 miles in the bay the other day. Shawn’s excellent at steering the boat, and even though our transition was a bit off he was able to get us back on track and we just wanted to go hard for the full race.”

But while Barnegat Light trailed by five heading into the final event, a win in the medley would have put pressure on Cedars. Instead, Pantaleo gave the Vikings the lead they needed to allow Wessler and McHugh to finish off the Light. It was the third straight time HCBP won the Epic tourney.

Earlier in the tournament, the quartet of Nate Humberston, Mike Smith, Brie Von Rosendahl and Sarah Button gave Barnegat Light the initial lead with a win in the Paddle Relay, before Cedars knotted the score at 12 when the brother-and-sister tandem of Jarrod Shoemaker and Parker finished in the top two spots of the Epic Run-Swim.

“I’m in training for the Philadelphia Triathlon, so I’m here for a little while,” said Shoemaker, who last guarded for Harvey Cedars during the mid-2000s, before he began competing for the U.S. triathlon team and finished 18th at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. “I figured while I was training I might as well work, and then Randy asked me if I wanted to race today. I said, ‘If nobody else wants to do the run and swim in the first event, I’ll do it.’ So Jenna and I did this event together, and it was fun. That’s what these competitions are about, the camaraderie of the guards and having fun.”


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