AC Lifeguard Classic

Avalon Beach Patrol's Erich Wolf reacts after the singles row at the Atlantic City Lifeguard Classic last year. Wolf won the singles row, helping Avalon win the overall team title. Avalon will try to defend its title tonight.

Staff photo by Ben Fogletto, July 22, 2011

The leading beach patrol athletes of Cape May County meet the lifeguards from the Atlantic County patrols for the first time this season Sunday at the 22nd annual Atlantic City Lifeguard Classic.

The four-race event begins at 6:30 p.m. at Albany Avenue beach in Atlantic City. Originally scheduled to be held today, the event was postponed until Sunday due to the threat of bad weather.

All the beach patrols in the South Jersey Lifeguard Chiefs Association will be there, except Cape May Point.

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The event consists of four races: the 600-meter paddleboard race, which has a box course in the ocean, the mile doubles row, the half-mile swim and the 1,000-foot singles row.

“We like being the event where everyone races each other for the first time,” said Rod Aluise, the Atlantic City Beach Patrol chief. “That’ll give them an idea what (the athletes) will do in Wildwood, Margate and at the South Jersey’s (on the next three Fridays, respectively).”

The A.C. Classic swim race, which will have two from each patrol competing, looks tough to predict and could be a key to victory for several teams.

Swimmer Pat Flynn, a second-year Margate lifeguard, is a new contender this year. He won the swim race at the Captain Michael D. McGrath Longport Memorials on July 6.

Flynn, who will be a senior at St. Augustine Prep, was The Press Boys Co-Swimmer of the Year this winter with older brother Jeff Flynn.

Last year’s Atlantic City Classic was Pat Flynn’s first lifeguard race, and he failed to finish in the top six.

“I saw the results from the last few (Cape May County) races, and there are a lot of fast swimmers down there,” said Pat Flynn, 17, of Absecon. “I’m looking forward to competing with them. I think I’ll do better than last year now that I have more experience.”

Flynn’s training regimen is slightly different than for the pool swimming season.

“I still train in the morning at (Egg Harbor Township, with the EHT Seahawks Swim Club),” Flynn said. “At work I usually go for a swim during workout hours.”

Avalon was the A.C. Classic team champion last year. Avalon’s Craig Whitehead won the 2011 doubles row with then-partner Shane McGrath, but McGrath isn’t lifeguarding this year.

Avalon’s Erich Wolf, who’s now Whitehead’s doubles partner, won the singles row at last year’s Classic.

“Atlantic County has some really tough crews,” said Whitehead, 41, a Colling-swood resident. “I always expect everybody to be good. It will be different for me to be rowing stern.”

Wolf will be doing two races for the first time in an event where all the top patrols are there.

“I’ll give it a shot this week and see how it goes,” said Wolf, 26, an Avalon resident. “I’ll do the first (race), then sit down and have some Gatorade and get ready for the singles. I think I’m in good shape and ready to go for it. Craig has given me some advice on it because he’s done that before.”

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