CAPE MAY POINT – Many of the lifeguards who have competed in the Cape May Point Women’s Challenge often remark about how difficult the event’s soft-sand run is.
It didn’t seem too difficult to Jenna Parker on Monday.
Parker, of the Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol, built a commanding lead through the run and cruised to her third victory in four years in the event. The 33-year-old Harvard University graduate posted a time of 23 minutes, 40 seconds, to beat the next closest competitor by 1:45.
In addition to the 1.3-mile soft-sand run that begins the competition, the 10th annual event also includes a one-mile ocean paddle with a rescue board and a half-mile ocean swim.
“I was very surprised to be out ahead that far after the run,” said Parker, a former professional triathlete who also works in the film industry, splitting her time among Los Angeles, Atlanta and the Central Jersey shore during the year. “Usually I’m hovering around dead last after the run and have to make up all that time.”
Instead, she was ahead by close to two minutes.
“I was shocked to be that far ahead,” Parker said. “I’ve always had a lot of competition around me in the past. I’ve never been alone on the (rescue) board.”
Parker held such a commanding lead that she jogged across the finish line after the swim before about half of the competitors had even finished the rescue board.
“When I was that far ahead (after the run) I was kind of questioning myself, wondering if I went out too hard,” Parker said. “But I didn’t want to let up because you never know what might happen with the paddleboard and then the swim. It’s such a hard, grueling race and so much can happen because of the currents.”
Lexi Santer, competing in the race for the fourth time, earned her third career second-place finish in 25:25. The fifth-year Ocean City lifeguard was the 2015 champion.
“Jenna is just an amazing competitor,” said Santer, 21, a swimmer at Duquesne University. “You always know she’s going to be up there. When I got to the paddle I probably knew then that I wasn’t making up that distance between us. But I did get a little closer so I was happy about that.
“This race is so much fun. All the girls train very hard and are very good athletes. It’s great to be out there competing with everyone.”
Wildwood’s Katie Collins used a strong performance in the paddleboard to climb close to the top. She finished in third place in 26:34. Fourth place went to Brigantine’s Grace Emig in 27:09. North Wildwood’s Scarlett Loughlin rounded out the top five in 27:13.
Santer and patrolmate Samantha Brady, who placed sixth in 27:28, combined to give Ocean City the victory in the two-person team competition, which was scored cross-country style. Collins and Mary Kate Comas, who finished 11th in 28:49, gave Wildwood a second-place team finish.
Thirty-four lifeguards finished the race.
INDIVIDUAL RESULTS: 1. Jenna Parker (HC) 23:40; 2. Lexi Santer (OC) 25:25; 3. Katie Collins (W) 26:34; 4. Grace Emig (B) 27:09; 5. Scarlett Loughlin (NW) 27:13; 6. Samantha Brady (OC) 27:28; 7. Abby Thompson (CMP) 28:09; 8. Emily Messina (SH) 28:27; 9. Mandi Basanits (SIC) 28:43; 10. Christina Caroulis (WC) 28:48; 11. Mary Late Comas (W) 28:49; 12. Caitlyn Coleman (W) 29:04; 13. Katherine Schroder (SH) 29:05; 14. Caitlin Schreiner (B) 29:16; 15. Sara Werner (CM) 29:24.
TEAM SCORING: 1. Ocean City 8; 2. Wildwood 14; 3. Harvey Cedars 18.