LONGPORT - The host patrol had a special night at the 41st Annual Capt. Michael D. McGrath Longport Memorial Lifeguard Races on Friday.
Longport sat in third place with 48 points behind Margate (57) and defending champion Ventnor (54) going into the final event, the singles row.
Margate and Ventnor each had their best rowers in the event, brothers Ashton and David Funk, respectively. Longport's Tom Kresz was right with the two and caught a swell into the finish to give Longport the team title and his first individual victory of his lifeguarding career.
Longport won the team title with 83 points, its first since winning from 2007-2009.
"I just saw that I was even with Ashton and that motivated me because he's really good and if you can beat him that's a good accomplishment. So that's all I was thinking about, just trying to get ahead and get the win," said Kresz, a 22-year- old Margate resident and former Holy Spirit High School and Saint Joseph's University rower.
"We knew Tom was going to be there eventually," Longport Beach Patrol chief Dan Adams added. "He's an up and comer for us as far as rowers in the (patrol) and he did a great job. We look forward to seeing what he can do the rest of the season."
The Funk brothers tied for second in the singles row, but Margate had a slight edge in the team scoring after placing first in the doubles row and the half-mile swim. Margate came in second with 77 points followed by Ventnor with 74. Atlantic City and Brigantine finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Getting the title back with the host patrol was particularly special for Adams. The all-Atlantic County event honors Adams' uncle and former co-captain McGrath, who died of cancer in 2005.
"This really hits home and it's close to the heart as far as family," Adams said. "We look at this as a win for Mike and we know he's looking down upon us tonight. It's a great victory for Longport and we were happy in the end that we could pull it out."
Longport placed third in the first event, the doubles row. Margate's Funk and Chuck Gowdy won the event in 12 minutes, 45 seconds. Longport posted 33 points in the half-mile swim to stay in third place. Bob Ballance, last year's winner, placed second behind Margate's Pat Flynn of St. Augustine Prep. But Ballance's finish was enough to keep Longport in contention.
Each of the patrols from Atlantic County looked sharp on the first night of the season.
"All the crews in Atlantic County in my opinion are very strong and very competitive and I can see any one of them at the top at the end of the season winning the South Jerseys," Adams said. "This is a strong start for Atlantic County and the season and we look forward to the future races coming up."
Contact Kelly Ashe:
1. Longport, 83 points; 2. Margate, 77 points; 3. Ventnor, 74 points; 4. Atlantic City, 44 points; 5. Brigantine, 39 points.
1. Ashton Funk and Chuck Gowdy, Margate; 2. Dave Funk and Mike Tripician, Ventnor; 3. Mike McGrath and Sean Duffey, Longport; 4. Rob Canavan and Vince Sera, Brigantine; 5. Mike Santangelo and Mike Flanagan, Atlantic City.
1. Pat Flynn, Margate; 2. Bob Ballance, Longport; 3. Carson Rau, Atlantic City; 4. Melissa Toy, Ventnor; 5. Jeff Terrell, Atlantic City.
1. Tom Kresz, Longport; 2. Ashton Funk, Margate tied Dave Funk, Ventnor; 4. John Dattallo, Brigantine; 5. Mike Santangelo, Atlantic City.