Ship Bottom Beach Patrol Scores Big in Last Event to Win Donlon Memorial Tourney

By DAVID BIGGY | Jul 26, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy The Ship Bottom Beach Patrol scored a first-place finish in the final event of its Jack Donlon Memorial Invitational Tournament, capturing the title with 29 points on July 20.

While the Atlantic Ocean often plays a major role in determining the outcome of many lifeguard tournaments, sometimes the difference between winning and losing comes down to a mistake by one team and whether another team is in the position to capitalize. In the Ship Bottom Beach Patrol’s Jack Donlon Memorial Invitational on July 20, the host team made the most of a Harvey Cedars mistake to win its tournament for the first time.

“We’ve been training really hard the whole year, and it’s nice to be able to put it all together as a team and get a win,” said Tommy Smith, who along with teammate Pat Carey cruised through the rowing portion of the Ironman Medley to give Ship Bottom the title. “This was a total team effort, from boat handlers to rowers to swimmers, paddlers and runners. We needed everybody to step up and they came through.”

After the Cedars quartet of Joe Pantaleo, Tim Goldstein, Ken Burkhardt and Billy Webster easily won the Paddle Relay ahead of Ship Bottom, the two squads were tied with 22 points heading into the sixth and final event and Brigantine not far off the pace with 20 points. And following the running portion of the Ironman Medley, both Cedars and Ship Bottom were right near the lead.

But during the swimming portion, the separation occurred as SBBP’s Chris Durbin turned in a fantastic 1,000-foot swim while Cedars’ swimmer went off course to the wrong marker flag – most likely disqualifying Cedars had it finished among the top five because of possible interference. With the Vikings far off the lead at that point, Durbin’s swim powered Ship Bottom into a lead it never relinquished, as Jonny Skolnick increased the lead during the paddle portion of the race and Carey and Smith cruised from there.

Ocean City ended up second for the Ironman Medley, while Brigantine finished third, Beach Haven took fourth to score its only two points of the tourney, and Long Beach Township finished fifth. Cedars ended up eighth in the event.

Behind Ship Bottom at the top of the leaderboard, Brigantine finished second with 23 points, with Harvey Cedars swiping third, and Ocean City – last year’s winner by tiebreaker over Cedars – taking fourth with 16 points. Ocean City was the only one of 11 teams to place in all events but didn’t win any of them.

“This really gives us a lot of confidence going forward,” said Shawn Hannon, who along with Tom Duralek scored Ship Bottom’s other victory in the 1,000-foot Row. “You know, once you get a win in an event, everything tends to erupt and everybody gets fired up and hits another gear. That’s what happened for us today.”

Initially, things didn’t look too positive for Ship Bottom. In the opening Surf Dash Relay, Harvey Cedars used the trio of Ryan Corcoran, Webster and Jeff Shanley to rout the field and give the Vikings their first of an eventual three event victories. But after Hannon and Duralek won the next event, Ship Bottom rolled, taking second place in each of the next three events to maintain its position near the front of the pack.

In the Paddleboard Pickup, Randy Townsend paddled out to grab Corcoran and the duo managed to get to the beach in first, ahead of Durbin and Skolnick, who missed a wave halfway back to shore, to push Cedars into first place with 15 points. But with Cedars in Lane 2 and Ship Bottom on the other side of the course in Lane 10, neither squad seemed to have a true feel for where they stood throughout the tournament.

However, as the scoring of each event continued it became clearer which teams were vying for the tournament title, and especially after Brigantine sustained a disqualification in the Paddle Pickup after scoring what would have been a second-place finish.

Still, Brigantine, which then won the next event – the Row Relay, comprising of two-man rowing tandems for each of three legs – was right near the front heading into the last two events. But because Mark Wagner, Duralek, Carey, Smith, Hannon and James LaMarco took second, Ship Bottom was tied for the lead. Unfortunately, Cedars dropped into second, albeit temporarily, after not placing in the Row Relay.

But as Cedars won the Paddle Relay, Ship Bottom’s consistency put it in a position to win big.

“We’re a row-heavy team, without question,” Smith said. “But without the consistency in the other events, with the exception of the Surf Dash, we wouldn’t have been in the position we were in at the end. Everybody did a great job of keeping us near the front. The conditions were a bit rough, but our experience paid off.”

Hannon pointed to the fact that five of Ship Bottom’s six rowers in the tournament have been rowing together for at least five years, giving them a chemistry which allows for such consistency.

“In that Row Relay, we didn’t dump on the second leg exactly as we should have, but everything else we did was flawless,” Hannon said. “So, chemistry definitely played a role. Our exchanges were great, and we didn’t make any mistakes that cost us a race. It was an awesome day for us.”

And now, with the Island tournament coming up in a bit more than a week, Ship Bottom’s victory could serve as motivation for both SBBP, which hasn’t won the big one since 1989, and Cedars, the two-time defending champion.

“We love those guys in Cedars and they’re really great competitors,” Hannon said. “But this was our chance to make a statement, and I think we did. This is going to be good for both teams, and it should make the Island tournament that much more exciting.”

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