By BRIAN CUNNIFF
WILDWOOD — One of the most exciting Dutch Hoffman Memorial Lifeguard Championships in the recent history of the event finished with the Longport Beach Patrol emerging as the team winner Friday evening.
With as many as six patrols in the running for first place going into the final event, the singles row, Mike McGrath gave Longport the championship with a third-place finish.
Longport completed the five-event competition with 12 points. Ocean City and Wildwood Crest finished tied with nine points, with Ocean City awarded second place by virtue of its higher finish in the doubles row.
Scoring was done on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis for first through fifth places.
McGrath and Duffey opened the competition — held under rough ocean conditions with the threat of rain throughout — with a 17-second victory in the doubles row. Cape May’s John Knies and Jake Smith were second.
The rescue board race provided one of a few down-to-the-wire finishes. Wildwood Crest’s Kevin Kelly exited the ocean in first place, but had to hold off Ocean City’s Bryan Theiss, who ran down Kelly during the sprint to the finish. Both lifeguards dove across the line, and Kelly was awarded the victory. Kelly later remarked, “I guess my fingers were just a little longer,” about the closeness of the finish.
Maggie Wallace continued to turn heads as the most accomplished female competitor in South Jersey lifeguard race history. The Ocean City Beach Patrol member won the swim, holding off a hard-charging Jon Burkett of Wildwood Crest at the close of the race. Wallace also won the swim at last year’s Hoffman race and this summer was first at the county championships and T. John Carey Masters Swim and second at the Atlantic City Classic.
Wildwood’s Mike Syrnick, a former Penn State runner, kept his firm grasp on the two-mile beach run, winning for the third straight summer and sixth time overall. Syrnick edged Upper Township’s Jake Davis, a former Ocean City High School standout distance runner, by two seconds.
David Funk of Ventnor finished the competition with his victory in the singles row. Cape May Point’s Ben Swan was second.
(Photos courtesy Billy Martin)