ATLANTIC CITY — Bill Leonard and Charlotte Brynn came a long way to be in the revived Around The Island Marathon Swim on Sunday, and they made the most of it.

Leonard, 40, of Ottawa, Ontario, was the overall winner of the 54th edition of the 22.75-mile race in 8 hours, 23 minutes, 27 seconds.

Brynn, 53, of Geraldine, New Zealand, was sixth overall and won the women’s title in 9:31.28.

Leonard took the lead early in the race and won by just more than 15 minutes over Steven Rouch, 39, of Indianapolis. Rouch was clocked in 8:38.37, and Bryan Hill, 30, of Des Moines, Iowa, placed third in 8:42.56.

“Winning takes the sting out of my shoulders, that’s for sure,” Leonard said. “I’ve never been here before. It was great. It was very well run, and I couldn’t have asked for better hosts. I’ve been training for this for about six months.”

The Around The Island Marathon Swim was last held in 2006 and was brought back this year as part of the Jim Whelan Open Water Festival.

The race was a fundraiser for Whelan’s Whales, a swimming program at the Martin Luther King Family Center for Atlantic City youth. Many young people were present at the boathouse dock at the end of the marathon, both to watch the competitors and to compete in the event’s 2K and 400-meter races.

“This was an original ocean age race from years ago," Leonard said. "It had cold water, warm water, chop, a little bit of everything.”

Leonard said the beginning was difficult as the swimmers faced the wind against the outgoing tide.

“It definitely helps your motivation to be leading,” Leonard said. “Once you get to the halfway point, every stroke you take brings you closer to the finish. I felt pretty good at the end, and it was great to have people cheering. It feels pretty good to win. I’ll absolutely come back next year.”

Twelve individuals and three relays took off at 7 a.m. at the Atlantic City High School crew boathouse, near the Albany Avenue Bridge.

The competitors headed counterclockwise in the intracoastal through Ventnor, Margate and Longport to the Great Egg Harbor Inlet. They then went in the ocean to the Absecon Channel in northern Atlantic City. After the final turn, they proceeded through the A.C. intracoastal to the finish line at the boathouse dock.

One swimmer tired and didn’t continue past the halfway point but was OK.

Brynn was a little surprised to win.

I’m really overwhelmed. I’m not believing it yet,” Brynn said. “I think this is just an awesome swim. A dolphin swam with me for about a half hour. It’s an iconic location, and it was great to the see the Ferris wheel and the other things. We had excellent lifeguards. They used hand signals to communicate.

“I owe a lot to my trainer, Cynthia Needham, and I’m glad my father is here (Don Hepburn, 86).”

The race was a challenge for Ryan McCabe, 34, of Washington, D.C., but he took fourth overall in 8:43.18.

“This is the longest race I’ve done by about 3 miles,” McCabe said. “It’s the first time I’ve done an ocean swim of more than 2 miles. It was a really different thing, but that’s really exciting. I’m glad I could be part of the (race’s) revival.”

There were also three relay teams that completed the course. Marc Mancinelli, Katie Collins, Chris Callahan, Lauren Caskey and Tina Zappile represented the Wildwood Beach Patrol. The five finished in 9:29.56. Collins and Callahan are Wildwood lifeguards, and Mancinelli is a patrol alumnus. Caskey, of Philadelphia, is a member of the Ocean City Swim Club, and Zappile, of Medford, is a Stockton University professor.

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Contact: 609-272-7210 GGargan@pressofac.com

Staff Writer

I’ve been at The Press since January of 1983. I cover all sports in general, but mostly lifeguard racing, and high school field hockey, football, swimming, basketball, crew, baseball and softball.

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