By BRIAN CUNNIFF
WILDWOOD — The 50th running of the Dutch Hoffman Memorial Lifeguard Championships lifeguard race just might go down as one of the most exciting.
With three teams tied for first place going into the final event, Vince Granese clinched the team championship for the Atlantic City Beach Patrol with a first-place finish in the singles row.
Granese adeptly maneuvered his boat in front of a wave and masterfully tilled his boat over the final 50 yards to beat Brigantine’s Ron DeFelice and Margate’s Bob Bechtel by about a boat length.
Atlantic City, which also posted second-place finishes in the doubles row and swim, posted 13 points in the five-event competition. Brigantine was second with nine points and Longport, by virtue of its higher finish in the doubles row, beat host Wildwood on a tiebreaker for third place with eight points.
All 15 South Jersey beach patrols competed in the event, traditionally referred to as the first of the “Big Three” in South Jersey lifeguard racing. The others are next Friday’s Margate Memorials and the South Jersey Championships on Aug. 9.
Ventnor’s Brett Hanson and Sean Slattery opened the competition with a narrow victory in the doubles row, edging Atlantic City’s Granese and Kyle Deroo.
Ocean City’s Bryan Theiss won a thrilling rescue board race. As many as seven competitors were in the running as the race drew to its conclusion. Theiss was third when the lifeguards dropped their boards but the two competitors ahead of him fell while running through a gulley 25 yards from the finish, allowing Theiss to reach the line first.
Longport’s Joey Tepper continued his tremendous summer by winning the swim race by a wide margin. Tepper was also a winner at the Red Bull Surf and Rescue and the Atlantic City Lifeguard Classic earlier this month.
Stone Harbor’s James Gusner won the two-mile beach run, edging Upper Township’s Jake Davis by a couple of seconds.