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Chuck Gowdy of the Margate Beach Patrol celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the singles row at the South Jersey Lifeguard Championships on the 34th Street beach in Ocean City on Sunday night.

Staff photo by Danny Drake

OCEAN CITY - Chuck Gowdy rowed the singles race he had long hoped for at the 73rd South Jersey Lifeguard Championships at the 34th Street beach Sunday.

The Margate Beach Patrol oarsman powered to the front in the quarter-mile race and rode a wave in the surf to a victory that also gave Margate an easy team championship win.

It was Gowdy's record-tying eighth race win at the South Jersey Championships, but his first in the singles row.

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The South Jersey team scoring is usually close, but Margate won with 11 points, well ahead of Ventnor, which took second with 6 points. Ocean City, the defending champion, also scored 6, but Ventnor won the doubles row, which is the South Jersey Lifeguard Chiefs Association tiebreaker.

"It's a good feeling to win the South Jersey (team) title and be able to host it next year," said Gowdy, 29. "I knew I had to get up there and score points so we could get the win. I got out with the pack, had a good row and caught a swell at the end. It was exactly how I pictured it."

Dylan Kosten, of Ocean City, finished second, seven seconds behind Gowdy.

Gowdy's Margate teammates did their part too. The doubles row team of Chris Graves and Bob Bechtel finished second and swimmer Pat Flynn placed fourth. That left it to Gowdy to score enough points for the win. His victory left no doubt.

It was Margate's ninth South Jersey team title (including three ties) and its third since 2008.

"It always feels great to win the South Jersey title," said Rich Kugel, the Margate Beach Patrol chief. "The residents of Margate always like us to bring the title to the town. It makes me proud of these guys. They do a great job."

Gowdy and Ventnor's David Funk now are the all-time South Jersey champions with eight victories apiece. Funk briefly owned the record by himself when he and partner Mike Tripician won the doubles row that started the evening.

"Winning the South Jersey singles row gets a monkey off my back," Gowdy said. "I've been second, third, fifth. I've been all around it."

The issue of who's the all-time South Jersey champion is far from settled.

"I really feel like Ashton (Funk, who has seven South Jersey titles), Dave and I have a lot of good years ahead of us," Gowdy said.

Tripician and David Funk won by six seconds against Graves and Bechtel. Tripician, the bow, announced that he was retiring from South Jersey competition to spend more time with his growing family. He's the only lifeguard ever to win the South Jersey championship in both rowing and swimming. He intends to keep lifeguarding.

"I've worked with Dave for 15 years and he's a great rowing partner," said Tripician, 29. "I've picked up a lot from him and vice-versa. We're a good team because we have the same goals and ideology."

Graves and Bechtel qualified to row doubles for Margate this year, beating Ashton Funk and Gowdy, the three-time defending South Jersey champions, in the city row-offs.

North Wildwood rookie Sean Regan led the field at the end of the three-quarter-mile swim, got up first in the surf and ran to the line to win in 12 minutes, 35.09 seconds.

Regan, 17, of Fort Washington, Pa., was wearing an Army swimming cap. He's applying to the United State Military Academy at West Point. If he's accepted, this will have been his only year with the North Wildwood patrol.

Regan also won the swim at the Atlantic City Lifeguard Classic and at the Margate World War II Memorials.

"I knew (the South Jersey Championships) was the big race even before I got on the patrol because my dad (former North Wildwood lifeguard Michael Regan) told me," Regan said. "I shaved and tapered for this, and rested. I felt really strong. It feels great to win this."

Stone Harbor's Sean McCall got up in the surf just after Regan crossed the line to take second.

Ocean City's Erin Curry, who swept the three women's swims this summer, finished seventh Sunday. She was subbing for Graham Parker, who was sick. Curry just found out Sunday morning that she would be swimming.

"I'm a little disappointed to not score, but I'm pretty happy with the way I raced," said Curry, 19.

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