Michael Macchia Snags Second Ocean Mile Swim Title Before Heading to College

Aug 16, 2017
Photo by: Grant Kelly

The first time Michael Macchia won the Ocean Mile Swim, in 2015, he was really excited. He was 16, after all, and his victory followed the one his brother, Greg, had accomplished a year earlier. On Aug. 12, after missing last year’s race, Mike regained the title and added another gold medal to the Macchia house.

“This one is still exciting, but maybe not quite as much as it was two years ago,” said the Barnegat Light Beach Patrol lifeguard, who graduated from high school in June and will continue his scholastic swimming career at New York University this fall. “I missed the race last year, so I wanted to get the title back.”

A backstroke and individual medley specialist while at Morristown High School, Macchia swam the freestyle through the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, and he swam along with the lead pack for most of the race. The pace was set by Luke Maurer of Wilmette, Ill., and John Loveless of Bedford, N.Y., as Macchia kept behind them by a couple of strokes.

“I just let them lead the way, and once we came to the last buoy, I kicked into another gear,” said Macchia, who plans to study finance and hopes to work on Wall Street someday. “On the way in, all I did was close my eyes and kick.”

When Macchia emerged from the surf about 75 yards from the finish line, he glanced over his right shoulder and ran. The 16-year-old Maurer and 17-year-old Loveless were just about exiting the water when Macchia hit dry sand, completing the course in 16, minutes, 32.99 seconds, some 2½ minutes faster than his time two years ago and about 30 seconds quicker than last year’s winning time, clocked by Robbie Dickson, who was not in this year’s race.

“I’ve been swimming this race since its first year, and I really enjoy it,” Macchia said. “Even though I swim a lot in a pool, I really like the ocean more. There’s just something about it I really like. You have all this space out there, and it’s just fun to swim in it.”

Maurer finished second in 16:35.51, while Loveless came in right behind him at 16:36.19. Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol lifeguard Jeff Shanley was fourth overall with a time of 16:51.69, and HCBP’s Brady Stauffer placed fifth in 17:17.78. Eric Mack (17:31.99) of Elizabeth was sixth, followed by HCBP’s Ryan Corcoran (17:34.51) in seventh, and BLBP’s Lucas Keh (17:39.53) and Mike Smith (17:47.74) in eighth and ninth, respectively.

Clocking a time of 18:0.09 – her fastest to date – was the 10th overall finisher, Harvey Cedars guard Maggie Shaw, who a week earlier won the Women’s 1,000-foot Swim in the Island Lifeguard Tournament. Last year, Shaw was second to Gabby Sibilia, one of her teammates with the Harvey Cedars patrol.

“I felt confident, like this could be my year to win it,” said the 23-year-old ex-Wagner University swimmer. “I swam the mile in college, so I’m familiar with the distance. Pacing in this swim is all about how you’re feeling as you go. It’s a mile and it’s going to hurt, but I kept my pace strong, and it worked out for me.”

The next female swimmer to cross the finish line, 18-year-old Krysta Garcia of Toms River, placed 21st overall with a time of 18:59.72, while North Plainfield’s Summer Momas was 27th in 19:56.56.

“This race attracts a lot of good swimmers, so you don’t really know who’s around you in the ocean,” Shaw said. “Sure, there are a lot of lifeguards who swim in this race, but you also don’t know if there’s a really good club swimmer from out of the area in the mix. That’s a big motivator as well.”

With 224 swimmers competing in the annual fundraiser for the Barnegat Light Beach Patrol and the current riding northward, a vast majority of the field cleared the 30-minute mark this time around – a whopping 188 swimmers, in fact, including 13-year-old Julie Narleski and her 15-year-old sister, Jaclyn, who crossed the line in 30:00.62 and 30:00.66, respectively.

“We both did it last year for the first time, and the goal was to finish in 35 minutes or less,” said Julie, who along with her sister beat their times from last year by just over 10 minutes. “This year, we didn’t stop at all, and we’re really happy with our time. This race is a lot of fun.”

Prior to last year’s race, during which the Narleski girls placed 13 and 14 spots from the end of the 271-swimmer field, Jaclyn and Julie had never competed in an open ocean swim. The sisters are part of the Barnegat Light Beach Patrol Lifeguard-in-Training program.

“Julie wanted to do it, and I thought she was crazy,” Jaclyn said. “We’ve both been swimming for a long time, since we were little, but that seemed a bit out there. But it’s exhilarating. It’s a cool race to do.”

It’s unlikely 70-year-old John Kline would have been in agreement with that assessment after he brought up the rear of this year’s field, but he did manage to cross the finish line well under 59 minutes, in 58:28.75.

“That was rough,” said Kline, the owner of Kline’s Landscaping and Design, who was scheduled to compete in the race last year but was sick, according to his wife, Tina, who stayed with him most of the way before crossing the line in 55:58.24. The one consolation for Kline – he placed fourth in the 70-and-over age group. “Right now, I feel like I’m going to throw up. I’ve never swallowed so much saltwater in my life.”

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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