2014-07-31 / Front Page

Run, Swim, Win – Lifeguard Competition

By Jacquelyn Moorehead

Jimmy Knowles of Newport's Easton's Beach team rowing in the Run, Row, Run competition. (Photos by Jack Kelly) Jimmy Knowles of Newport's Easton's Beach team rowing in the Run, Row, Run competition. (Photos by Jack Kelly) Lifeguards are prepared to run at a moment’s notice to rescue swimmers in danger, but for two days each July they run just for the sake of competition and camaraderie.

The contest was fierce as Newport’s Easton’s Beach lifeguards fought on their home turf against four other regional teams in the 38th annual Newport Invitational Lifeguard Tournament on July 29 and 30. Squads from Middletown’s Sachuest Beach, Narragansett Town Beach, Westerly Town Beach, and the Long Beach Township (LBT) in New Jersey faced off against the hometown team in the sand and surf, going head to head in 14 events. There were separate and combined men’s and women’s contests, all testing lifesaving skills.

Narragansett won with 410 points. Jersey’s Long Beach team was second with 349 points, and Easton’s Beach came in third at 272. Westerly took fourth with 259 and Middletown’s Sachuest crew finished last with 102 points. Sachuest was unable to perform in many of the challenges because they did not have a boat.

Lifeguard competitor paddles a lifeboard. Lifeguard competitor paddles a lifeboard. Tournament director Matt Wygant, also the Easton’s Beach team captain, was impressed by the level of competition. “There are incredible swimmers and allaround great athletes that came out to participate.”

The men’s Run, Row, Run kicked off the contest, with a member from each squad running to the team boat, rowing out to a buoy and back to shore, and then dashing across the finish line. The winner, LBT guard Fran Campana, finished only moments before Easton’s Beach lifeguard Jimmy Knowles. Campana also picked up this year’s MVP award, with the most individual points.

The Iron Man and Mermaid Medley events tested the endurance of the guards. The Iron Man was a one-man show, with a 100 yard sprint followed by a 500 yard swim, 800 yard paddle, and 1,000 yard boat row. Wygant called it “absolutely brutal,” and applauded Narragansett’s Dave Cannon who finished first. That town’s ladies also won the Mermaid Medley, a three-person effort, each completing a leg of a 500 yard run, swim and paddle.

The kayak relay, where threemember teams race 800 yards across the surf four times, was the only contest in which Easton’s Beach took first place. This was the inaugural year for the event.

Highlights for spectators and participants alike were those showcasing lifesaving methods employed every day by the lifeguards. Matt Huff, Sachuest team captain, said the rescues were his favorites. “They are similar to what we really do. They’re team events and that’s what we’re all about.” His personal pick was the torpedo relay, which sent guards into the water to rescue teammates and drag them to shore in the shortest amount of time.

The lifeguards might have been the ones competing on the beach, but the real winners are the swimmers served by these professionals every day.

“We are very excited to be part of this,” Brian Skorupski of Westerly said. “We all train all summer, but it’s not just about competition – it’s about being ready to save lives.”

Wygant, who took over as tournament director this year, vows to keep it going "for as long as I can."

The tournament was a great warm-up for the Rhode Island Guard Games which take place the first week in August. These teams are ready.

Return to top