North End Squad Captures Second Straight LBT Beach Patrol Mayor’s Cup

Aug 02, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy The Loveladies-North Beach crew celebrates with the trophy after capturing a second straight Long Beach Township Beach Patrol Mayor’s Cup championship on July 28.

Christian Wheeler didn’t need to pull off the big finish a la Matt Sheplin in last year’s Long Beach Township Beach Patrol Mayor’s Cup tournament. But a victory in what turned out to be the final event of this year’s intra-squad tourney certainly wasn’t going to hurt the Loveladies-North Beach crew.

“I heard whispers that this was an important race,” said Wheeler, who finally caught her breath after winning the grueling Ironwoman event on July 28 to give the North End the Mayor’s Cup trophy for a second straight year. “I did the event last year and I didn’t finish too well. I screwed up the row and run, badly. I wanted to make up for it this year and win it this time.”

With her team leading Spray Beach by three points heading into the finale – which became the final event because three events on what should have been the second day and final day of competition the previous weekend had to be postponed due to rough surf conditions – Wheeler trailed Holgate’s Julianna Perello after the rowing leg. Perello maintained her lead following the run and entered the Atlantic for the swimming portion some 50 yards ahead of Wheeler.

The gap was all but completely erased soon after Perello and Wheeler made the turn at the buoy marker 250 feet from the beach. Perello held a short lead with about 100 feet left before Wheeler snagged a small wave, but it was enough to shoot Wheeler into the lead. When the pair emerged from the water, Wheeler was only 5 yards ahead but used a solid run from the surf at low tide to turn it into a 35-yard lead heading into the paddle.

“The run was really tough because it was low tide, but the swim was my recovery period,” Wheeler said. “I’ve been a swimmer all my life, so I knew I could catch Julianna during the swim. Then I caught that wave and I knew at that point that I was in good shape.”

Still, she had to complete the 1,000-foot paddle portion of the race before she and the North End bunch could celebrate. Wheeler easily maintained the lead as she neared the beach and reached the finish line well before Perello carried her board from the surf.

“The sidenote for this race is that Julianna and I were in the LIT Tournament Ironwoman together when were 13,” said Wheeler, who after the race reflected with Perello for a moment about their days as lifeguards-in-training. “Julianna asked if I would do the race with her, and we finished it together. Today, one of us was going to win it. I’m glad I was able to win it for my team.”

The tournament title marked the second time in its 34 years that Loveladies-North Beach captured back-to-back titles – the first coming in 1990 and 1991, before any of the current guards were on the patrol, including 26-year veteran Mike Dancha.

“Mike was almost here, but I was a 3-year-old waddling around somewhere,” said Chris Kiely, one of the team’s captains who finished last in the 1,500-foot Paddle in what would have been the last event of the tournament had it not been for the postponements. “But we have a great crew and they all work hard, and everybody did what they had to do to make this happen. And tonight, we got three really strong efforts to put us up at the top. I thanked every one of them for saving me.”

In the first race of the evening, the North End’s Dave Behr easily won the Singles Row to send his team into second place, a point behind Spray Beach, which had entered the final day up by seven points but ended up last in the Singles Row.

The duo of Caitlyn Behr and Joe Harper finished second behind Beach Haven Crest’s Caroline Royston and Terry Dorman in the Mixed Doubles Row, but another last-place finish by Spray pushed Loveladies-North Beach into the lead. With Wheeler’s victory, the North End finished with 77 points, while Spray Beach ended up second with 69 and Holgate took third with 67. The Crest was fourth with 62 points and Brant Beach finished a distant fifth.

“The schedule got all mixed up, but we were prepared,” Kiely said. “When that happens, some teams lose their drive. If anything, it gave us more drive. We’re usually a second-day team, anyway, but we knew we had three strong events coming up tonight. And because of the low tide, we were able to use our big, strong, fast boat handlers to get us good starts, and that’s really what helped us tonight.”

— David Biggy

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