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3 first-place finishes carry Avalon to Cape May County Championships title

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WILDWOOD CREST — Members of the Avalon Beach Patrol won three events Friday to capture the Cape May County Lifeguard Championships team title at Rambler Road beach.

Avalon’s Dave Giulian and Gary Nagle placed first in the doubles row. Dolan Grisbaum won the open-box swim, and Erich Wolf won the singles row. It was the 38th edition of the event.

Avalon finished with 26 team points. Sea Isle City was second with 22. Wildwood and Cape May each had 19. Wildwood took third place on a tiebreaker.

“It was a very tight race,” Wolf said. “There are a lot of talented teams here.”

Ten Cape May County beach patrols belong to the South Jersey Lifeguard Chiefs Association (Ocean City, Sea Isle City, Upper Township, North Wildwood, Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, Stone Harbor, Avalon, Cape May and Cape May Point).  

Wildwood Crest won its home event in 2019 and 2021. The races were canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are very excited to win it,” said Avalon Chief Matt Wolf, who has been a member of the patrol for 25 years. He and Erich Wolf are brothers. “This is the first time our patrol has won it since I’ve been a guard. So this is special. The guards put in a lot of hard work. They do a great job on the beach. They train hard and put their own time into it.

“We are also excited because we won the three South Jersey (Lifeguard Championships) events , so that bodes well for later in the season.”

Giulian and Nagle won the doubles row in 13 minutes, 9 seconds after finishing second in the event in 2021. On Friday, Avalon was in the lead to start the race. The current was pulling each boat north, and Cape May’s Andrew Treffesien and Mike Fitzpatrick took the lead after the turn. Treffesien and Fitzpatrick remained in the lead until the end, when Giulian and Nagle pulled in front and, despite their boat turning as they approached the shore, earned the victory.

Treffesien and Fitzpatrick finished in 13:24

“We just had a great start,” said Nagle, a 2018 Middle Township High School graduate. “Dave did a good job pushing us off there in the beginning. Everyone was making adjustments out there.”

After the Avalon duo fell behind, Nagle told Giulian they had to finish the race strong. They caught a wave at the end.

“Nothing feels better than that,” Nagle said.

Giulian recently graduated from Middle. He was named The Press Male Athlete of the Year and finished sixth at 190 pounds at the state wrestling tournament in Atlantic City in March. He is also a standout football player.

He added to his athletic success Friday.

“We had this circled on our calendar for the whole year now,” Giulian said.

“It’s great to see them come out here and win,” Wolf said. “They’ve been working really hard.”

Added Nagle: "That was our expectation.”

Grisbaum won the open-box swim for the second year in a row. He finished in 10:58. The 2021 Ocean City High School graduate now swims for Boston University. He placed fourth in the 1,650-meter freestyle at the Patriot League Championships for the Terriers.

Grisbaum was the 2020-21 Press Boys Swimmer of the Year. He has had great success in the pool and just as much success in the ocean when he was a rookie last summer.  

Sea Isle’s Andrew Taylor was second (11:32) in Friday's race.

“I definitely wanted to defend my tithe this year,” Grisbaum said. “There are a lot of new guys in the mix, which is always fun and exciting. I tried to stay in shape the last few months. Being in college, you don’t always swim through the entire year.”

Grisbaum has been swimming at his pool and in the ocean. Coming out of the ocean Friday, the run was a little long, he said. At the beginning, the swimmers ran in knee-deep water for some time before swimming.

“I’m not much of a runner,” he joked. “But I knew to take it out fast. It was a really long surf dash out there, too. But I’m pretty good at that, so I wasn’t really worried.”

Wolf won the singles row in 5:18. He got turned by a wave when he was coming in, but the 36-year-old had a large enough lead that he was able to straighten out and win. He hadn’t really been in a boat yet this summer but still won.

“I had a good row out there, until the end,” Wolf said. “I hope nobody was watching that finish there. But it was a good first row of the summer and plenty more to come. It all worked out.”

Sea Isle’s Corbin King won the open box-paddleboard in 7:56. He competed in the event last year but “was young,” he said, adding that he worked hard in the offseason.

Sea Isle’s Mary Kate Leonard won the female box swim (12:49).

“It feels amazing,” said King, 18, of Doylestown, Pennsylvania. “It’s all about checking out the waves before you go in. I’m happy I won. It’s a dream come true.”

Ocean City’s Mia Gallagher won the female paddleboard race (9:15). Wildwood Crest’s Brett Pedersen, Terry McGovern, Jake Klecko, Roman Voinea and Sofia Jurusz won the surf dash (4:03).

“It was a really, really tough race,” said Jurusz, a rising senior at Middle Township. “It was really long, but it was really good. It was really exhilarating. I feel really good. I like my team.”

Contact Patrick Mulranen: 609-272-7217

Twitter @ACPressMulranen


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