VENTNOR - Overshadowed until the very end, the women of the Ventnor Beach Patrol rallied to win the team title of the Cape Atlantic Women's Lifeguard Invitational on Wednesday.
The Ventnor team of Lisa Jones, Sierra McCarron, Stacey Price and Lt. Meghan Holland won the surf dash, the only race of the four where Ventnor took first place.
Some great performances by other teams kept Ventnor from getting noticed, but the host patrol finished no worse than third in the other races.
Ventnor won the team title with 15 points. Ocean City, which was seeking a three-event sweep of the women's beach patrol competition season, placed second with 11 points.
Atlantic City got a powerful victory in the doubles row by Meghan Birkbeck and Danielle LaRotonda and a singles row win by Birkbeck. But A.C. scored no other points and finished third with 10 points.
"Everybody scored in our races. We have a great group of girls and everyone did their best," Holland, 30, said. "All the rowers and swimmers have been training hard. We were ready for this race."
Wildwood Crest was going for a second straight summer of winning the three surf dashes, but had trouble early in the race and finished fifth. Ventnor got the lead in the middle of the race and held on to win.
"It feels awesome to win the surf dash and the team title," said Price, 17, a rising senior at Mainland Regional High School of her first surf dash victory. "It was great to have all your fellow guards cheering for you."
McCarron caught a wave in the second leg, and that helped Ventnor to the win. She and Price are new to the dash team this year.
"They (the rest of the team) gave me the lead," said Holland, the anchor leg. "Everyone did what they had to do, and I was really proud of them. We knew with Wildwood Crest and some of the other teams in the race that we had to do everything well."
A rough ocean made the rows difficult, especially the beginnings at the shoreline. All the crews seemed to have difficulty, except Birkbeck and LaRotonda. When they finished the race in 17 minutes, 27 seconds, there was a delay of more than two minutes before anyone else finished.
"We were leaning our weight to the bow to keep going forward," said Birkbeck, 21, a rising senior for the Ohio State University varsity eight. "I thought we were going to flip the boat. I didn't want to catch any waves. I just wanted to keep rowing."
Birkbeck won the singles row by 15 seconds over Longport's Paige Funk.
"I was watching Capt.(Warren) Brown's signal to stay on course," Birkbeck said. "I had never won one race before (against other patrols), much less two. I was pretty tired after the doubles, but I thought I could get top three. It's awesome to win it."
The only sweep of the three women's events this year was by Stone Harbor swimmer Hayley Edwards. The former Villanova star won in 11:03, finishing at the beach just before Ocean City's Lexi Santer got up in the surf and ran to the line.
Edwards, a 22-year-old rookie, also won the swim at the Longport Women's Lifeguard Invitational and the Ocean City Beach Patrol Women's Invitational.
"It was very exciting," Edwards said. "I was a little nervous when I saw the waves, and it was hard to stay on course. The waves made it a longer race. I caught some waves on the way in, and that was helpful."
Contact Guy Gargan:
Team scoring (Scoring was 5-4-3-2-1 for the first five places.)
1. Ventnor 15; 2. Ocean City 11; 3. Atlantic City 10; 4. Longport 7; 5. Sea Isle City 6.
1. Atlantic City (Meghan Birkbeck-Danielle LaRotonda) 17:27; 2. Ventnor (Jessie Stackhouse-Amanda McCabe) 19:53; 3. Longport (Paige Funk-Katie Adams) 20:20; 4. Ocean City (Rachel Boudart-Holly Berenotto) 20:12; 5. Sea Isle City (Lindsay Vallen-Alisia Bell) 20:18.
1. Hayley Edwards, Stone Harbor 11:03; 2. Lexi Santer, Ocean City 11:18; 3. Melissa Toy, Ventnor 12:04; 4. Mary Ann Lerro, Wildwood Crest 12:09; 5. Madison Meyer, Sea Isle City 12:21.
1. Meghan Birkbeck, Atlantic City 7:20; 2. Paige Funk, Longport 7:35; 3. Meghan Holland, Ventnor 7:42; 4. Rachel Boudart, Ocean City 8:50; 5. Kerry Choplin, Cape May 8:53.
Surf dash (No time)
1. Ventnor (Lisa Jones, Sierra McCarron, Stacey Price, Meghan Holland); 2. Sea Isle City; 3. Ocean City; 4. Cape Nay; 5. Wildwood Crest.