MARGATE - The Ocean City Beach Patrol settled for points while other teams scored race victories that drew roars from the crowd Friday at the 74th annual South Jersey Lifeguard Championships.
Two flashes of lightning also got fearful "oohs" from the fans during the singles race.
However, in the end, it was Ocean City's Dylan Kosten, Matt Garbutt and Anthony Czar who stood on the podium in the rain with Chief Tom Mullineaux as he held the championship trophy.
Ocean City scored nine points and captured the team championship. Upper Township also totaled nine points, but O.C. denied Upper a historic first South Jersey win on the doubles-row tiebreaker. A higher finish in the doubles row breaks ties in South Jersey Lifeguard Chiefs Association.
Kosten and Garbutt took third in the doubles, while U.T.'s Jon O'Neil and Dan Palombo placed fifth.
Czar finished fourth in the swim for Ocean City, and Kosten was second in a wild singles race.
"We got it done," Mullineaux said. "Dylan and Matt did a great job, and Anthony Czar did well in the swim for a first time around (in the South Jersey Championship). We got the points, and it's a team game.
"It was interesting tonight. The lightning didn't come until the end, and nobody got hurt, thank God."
Ocean City lead the Chiefs Association with 34 South Jersey team titles, including ties, all time. Friday's win was similar to 2011's, when O.C. won the title without a victory in any of the races.
The Upper Township patrol and it's fans celebrated as Palombo won the singles row, giving U.T. its first South Jersey race title. Kosten's second place just barely clinched the overall championship for Ocean City.
"I really wanted to win the singles row because this is my last year on the patrol," said Kosten, 24. "But I'm happy to get the title back to Ocean City. Winning the team title is what it's all about."
The first big cheer was the home crowd's roar for Margate's Ashton Funk and Chuck Gowdy after they won the doubles. Funk and Gowdy won by two boat-lengths over Ventnor's Matt Given and David Funk.
"It was a great win for us," said Ashton Funk, 31, the bow. "Winning last week at Margate (in the World War II Memorials doubles) was a confidence-booster. All the boats were close under these conditions. Coming in (Friday), we were trying to keep the stern down to ride the waves better."
Gowdy earned his ninth career South Jersey race title, the most of anyone in history. Brothers Ashton and David Funk are second with eight apiece.
"It's always good to get a win, with the tough competition," Gowdy, 30, said. "It was a rough ocean. It was the kind of conditions where guys can come out of nowhere and make a name for themselves."
That's what Palombo did, winning the singles in 4 minutes, 40 seconds. Kosten finished in 4:55, and David Funk third in 5:06.
"At the start, I tried to stay near Dylan Kosten because he's always a contender," Palombo, 19, said. "All I wanted to do was get points. To win it is amazing, with the athletes around here."
One of those standouts is Brigantine's Shane McKenzie, who won the swim and then got a ride atop the shoulders of his patrol mates. McKenzie, a 19-year-old rookie and a rising sophomore swimmer at the University of Notre Dame, pulled away at the end and won by nine seconds in 14:11. Avalon's Ian Keyser was second, his best South Jersey finish ever, and Upper Township's Kevin Gill was third.
"They definitely told me all summer how great this race is," McKenzie said. "It feels great to win it. I'm thankful to have the opportunity to swim for Brigantine."
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