By BRIAN CUNNIFF
WILDWOOD CREST — The surf dash relay team finished the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol’s outstanding effort at the Cape May County Lifeguard Championships with a flourish Monday evening.
Dashers Brett Pederson, Nate Belasario, Pat Bakey, Jon Burkett and Christina Caroulis blew away the rest of the field in the last of the seven-event competition to clinch the team victory for the host patrol on the Rambler Road beach.
Bakey staked the Crest to a huge lead after the first leg and his teammates held it throughout as the Crest dashers won the event by 23 seconds over second-place Stone Harbor.
Wildwood Crest, first in the 36th annual competition for the first time since 2008 and just the third time overall, posted 27 points to win comfortably over 2017 champion Wildwood (18) and 2018 champion Ocean City (13). All 10 beach patrols from the county competed.
While its surf dash relay team represented the patrol’s lone first-place finish, the Crest was the only patrol to score in every event.
Pederson, Bakey, Burkett and Adrienne Bilello placed in multiple events for the Crest. In addition to their efforts in the surf dash, Pederson was second in the open paddleboard race, Bakey teamed with Jake Klecko for third in the doubles row and Burkett finished third in the open swim. Bilello, meanwhile, placed second in the female swim and third in the female paddleboard race.
The competition was held under difficult conditions, featuring a stiff breeze and strong ocean currents
Upper Township’s Ryan Fisher and Kyle Rumaker won the doubles row for the second straight year by a wide margin, beating the field by 20 seconds.
Stone Harbor’s Greg Osborne took first in the open paddleboard race. He was a close third when the athletes exited the ocean but was able to run past Pederson and Ocean City’s Bryan Theiss during the approximately 150-yard run to the finish line.
North Wildwood’s Luke Snyder took first in the open swim race. The second-year lifeguard who swims at the University of Pennsylvania beat Wildwood rookie Brendan Lewis by four seconds.
Cape May’s Rebecca Luft, a swimmer at Ohio State University, was first in the female swim race. She was third out of the ocean but sprinted by two others in the short run to the finish line.
Wildwood’s Bella Taylor capped an impressive debut in her first-ever competition. The 16-year-old South Florida resident won the female paddleboard race by 15 seconds. She also placed third in the female swim race. Taylor is the daughter of Joe Taylor, a former North Wildwood lifeguard and accomplished competitive rower.
Avalon’s Erich Wolf repeated as winner of the singles row. The Middle Township High School graduate and teacher at Atlantic County Institute of Technology edged Wildwood Crest’s Darrick Kobierowski by three seconds.