SPRING LAKE — More than 200 participants set off against winds and currents Saturday to go the distance in the annual Spring Lake Ocean Mile Swim.
The sky was the kind of gray that only a morning following a bout of rain could bring, and the choppy waves reflected the day’s windy conditions.
Swimmers of all ages gathered at the beach from the Sussex Avenue entrance, donning swim caps, goggles, an electronic ankle chip to keep time, and even wetsuits. A handful of swimmers warmed up in the ocean, many could be seen stretching, and all were enjoying the company of their fellow swimmers around them as they waited for the signal to begin the mile-long swim.
According to borough Chief Lifeguard Tony Hipsley, about 24 lifeguards were stationed across the course, with two lieutenants on the PWC jet ski and four to five lifeguards at each jetty that the swimmers passed, all working to monitor and ensure the safety of the participants.
At 8 a.m., the countdown was made and the participants were off, heading straight into the waves on the northward course. The boardwalk was lined with onlookers, with some getting in their cars to drive down to the finish line, and others enjoying the warming weather and walking the mile alongside the swimmers.
The beach at the North End Pavilion soon became filled with an anticipatory crowd, sitting in beach chairs or standing at the edge of the water in wait as participants swam into waves and against currents. The Split Second Racing organization waited with a blow-up finish line for the swimmers to race through, and technology that would calculate the swimmers’ exact times.
The first to race through the finish line was Mitchell Cullen, an incoming senior at St. Rose High School, with a time of 28:46. Frankie Prekop followed nearly a minute behind, and Jerry O’Mara followed him with a similar gap in time. Danielle Prekop, the first-place female swimmer, finished with a time of 30:49.
The rest of the swimmers filtered through in a two-hour time period, a stark comparison to the last year’s timings, where only one competitor finished with a time over 50 minutes– a testament to the harsh conditions they were faced with.
The event concluded with an awards ceremony led by Borough Administrator Bryan Dempsey, who announced the top 15 participants in both female and male categories.
“We have some terrific swimmers here, both young and old, and we’re happy to have them,” Mayor Jennifer Naughton told The Coast Star. “It’s a tradition for the summer.”
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