BRIGANTINE - With no finish worse than a tie for second place in each race, the home Brigantine team won the Chief Bill Kuhn Brigantine Beach Patrol Lifeguard Invitational on Monday at 15th Street beach.
Paddleboarders Kyle Fitzgerald and Doug Brown were the keys to victory in the final race as Brigantine capped it off with a win in the final race, the rescue relay.
Brigantine won with 26.5 team points, and Lavallette, its friendly rival from northern New Jersey, was second with 24 point. Longport was third with 18.
"We had a little bond with (Lavallette) and we like to invite them to our event," Brigantine Beach Patrol acting chief Kip Emig said. "They were really hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, so I'm glad they were able to make it here. We always go to their tournament, too.
"I'm proud of our guys, especially since it's about 58 degrees out there in the water, and they said it's colder at the (halfway) flags. This event is different from other South Jersey events, because it gets a lot of people competing and it showcases what we do every day. It's important to get the young guards involved competing. These are shorter races, and it's like a stepping stone to the longer South Jersey events."
The rescue relay had swim, paddleboard and doubles crew legs, with a victim at the flag being picked up and brought to shore in each leg.
The final race was left to some Brigantine veterans, such as Fitzgerald and the crew of Vince Sera and Rob Canavan, who finished up the race with a win that clinched the team title.
Lavallette had a slight lead following the swim rescue leg, but Fitzerald gave Brigantine the lead in the paddleboard. He picked up "victim" Doug Brown at the flag and they paddled to a good lead.
Sera and Canavan had no problem keeping the lead, and "victim" Mike Demarest jumped out of their boat at the end and ran to the finish line as the home crowd cheered.
"I caught up at about the flag, and we had a good exchange," said Fitzerald, 28, a 14-year patrol veteran. "Doug and I increased the lead every stroke. I knew that if we had the lead at the end, our crew would have no problem winning.
"We have a good beach patrol with a lot of good athletes."
Brigantine's Fitzgerald, Joe Mohnack, Brown and Sven Peltonen won the paddleboard relay, the first race.
"This is my first year on the team, and the other guys have a lot of experience," said Mohnack, 20, of Brigantine. "It's awesome to race with these guys."
Longport won the boat relay, with Mike McGrath and Sean Duffey starting off, Dan Dollin and Jack Schall rowing the second leg, and Eric Grimley and Matt Kelm anchoring. Longport got ahead of Brigantine and Atlantic City on the last leg, and Grimley jumped out and ran to the line.
"I rowed with Matt for one season, around 2000, and he set a smooth stroke rate," said Grimley, 32. "I love relay races, they're more exciting and the transition (when one crew switches to the next by the beach) is crazy. It adds to the fun."
Contact Guy Gargan:
1. Brigantine 26.5; 2. Lavallette 24; 3. Longport 18; 4. Atlantic City 16.5; 5. Island Beach State Park 11; 6. Ventnor 9.
1. Brigantine (Kyle Fitzgerald, Joe Mohnack, Doug Brown Sven Peltonen); 2. Lavallette; 3. Island Beach State Park.
1. Longport (Mike McGrath-Sean Duffey, Dan Dollin-Jack Schall, Eric Grimley-Matt Kelm); 2. (tie) Brigantine and Atlantic City 4.5.
1. Lavallette (Brian Barr, Ryan Belger, Joe Caucino, Brian Henningsen); 2. Brigantine; 3. Atlantic City.
Iron man relay
1. Lavallette (Brian Barr (swim), Ben Smith paddleboard), Matt DelTufo-Scott Darby (crew); 2. Brigantine; 3. Atlantic City.
1. Brigantine (Shane McKenzie, Bob Lenahan-swim, Kyle Fitzgerald, Doug Brown-paddleboard, Vince Sera-Rob Canavan, Mike Demarest-crew); 2. Lavallette; 3. Longport.