The adults and juniors who make up the Hampton Lifeguard Association are accustomed to being the underdogs at the United States Lifesaving Association National Tournament each year. But they certainly didn’t perform like rookies at Manhattan Beach in California last week.Despite being one of the smallest teams in the ‘A’ division, while competing against juggernauts like Los Angeles County, whose lifeguards work and train year-round, the Hampton Lifeguard Association (HLA) team finished sixth out of 17 teams. Overall, they were ninth of 35 teams (factoring in the ‘B’ group).
What’s even more impressive is the progress the Hamptons team has made in just a year’s time. At the 2012 tournament, the HLA guards finished ninth overall with 43 points. This year, they scored 149 points in their rise to sixth place.
John Ryan Jr., who competed in the tournament and was one of the key organizers for the team, said the great leap in points scored was a testament to how hard the lifeguards trained for the event. Several days a week, they’d begin training sessions on the beach at 6:45 a.m., before starting their regular work shifts on the lifeguard chairs.
Ryan explained that while the HLA has fewer lifeguards than several teams in the ‘B’ division—such as Smith Point, a team from central Suffolk County—it is placed in the ‘A’ division because it has more than 100 actual members. Several HLA members are actual competitors or lifeguards, but join the association because it helps benefit the junior program and the East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue Squad.
He also pointed out that teams from the West Coast and Florida have a distinct advantage because they work and train year-round. The HLA guards are often at an age disadvantage as well in the open division, as the West Coast and Florida teams don’t typically hire guards younger than 18, while on Long Island, lifeguards can start when they are 16.
“The competition was very strong this year,” Ryan said. “To be out there and competing against the caliber of guards we were competing against, it was amazing how well we did.”
In the adult open division, the HLA crowned two national champions—Lucy Kohlhoff won the female beach flags tournament, beating out four
Smith Point lifeguards, while Paige Duca took top honors in the 2K run. Katie Osiecki and Duca also advanced to the finals of the beach flags event before getting knocked out. Both Kohlhoff and Duca live in Montauk and are lifeguards at Gin Beach during the summer.
Also in the open division, the quartet of Thomas Brierley, Andrew Foglia, Peter Johann and Jeremy Pepper advanced to the finals in the landline rescue, finishing 10th overall. Haley Ryan also made it out of her heat and into the finals in the run-swim-run, finishing 30th overall.
The HLA adult guards also saw success in age group divisions, particularly in beach flags. John Ryan was third in the 45-49 men’s division, while Kathy Piacentine was third in women’s beach flags and third in the 2K run in the 50-55 division. Vanessa Edwardes was first in both beach flags and the 2K run in the women’s 55-59 division. Her father, 82-year-old Roger Tibbetts, was second in beach flags in the silver division, for competitors age 70 and up.
Craig Brierley narrowly missed out on winning the 2K run in the men’s 45-49 division, finishing second because there was some confusion at the end about the location of the finish line. Jeff Lynch was third in beach flags in the men’s 50-55 division, while Tennille Treadwell was third in beach flags in the women’s 45-49 division.
The HLA junior lifeguards also had a banner showing at the tournament. In the junior tournament, competitors are divided by gender in certain events, and are split up by age in all events, with the AA (16-17) group being the oldest, followed by A (14-15), B (12-13), and finally C (9-11), the youngest group.
In the ‘A’ group, Amanda Calabrese was dominant, winning both the Ironguard competition and the rescue board race and taking second in beach flags, losing to teammate Sophie Kohlhoff. Calabrese was also part of the seventh-place swim relay team, which included MariKate Ryan, Thomas Paradiso, Nakai Kulik and T.J. Calabrese. Also in the ‘A’ group, Thomas Paradiso was second in the distance run and fifth in beach flags.
In the ‘B’ group, HLA juniors had a slew of top five finishes: Liana Paradiso won the distance run, with Isabella Swanson finishing fourth; Maggie Purcell was fourth in the run-swim-run and fifth in the Ironguard; Liana Paradiso, Isabella Swanson and Maggie Purcell finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the rescue board race; Val Ferraro was third in beach flags; and the swim relay team of Liana Paradiso, Isabella Swanson, Caroline Oakland, Maggie Purcell and Chasen Dubs finished fifth.
In the ‘C’ group, Lila Ferraro was first in beach flags; Julia Brierley was second in the run-swim-run while teammates Olivia Brabant and Sophia Swanson finished fourth and fifth, respectively; and Brierley was third in the Ironguard, with Brabant taking fifth. Brierley was also fourth in both the rescue board race and the distance swim. Additionally, Sophia Swanson was third in the distance run; the swim relay team of Sophia Swanson, Lila Ferraro, Olivia Brabant, Evie Purcell and Brierley took fifth; and the rescue race team of Sophia Swanson and Brabant finished fourth.
Overall, Ryan Jr. said he couldn’t have been happier with the outcome of the tournament.
“I could not be more proud and honored at the commitment that the guards, the parents, the ocean rescue members and the juniors showed,” he said. “I can’t express my thanks for all the work that they did.”