Oarsman Vince Granese of the Atlantic City Beach Patrol could play a big role in the outcome of today’s 76th annual South Jersey Lifeguard Championships at Decatur Avenue beach in Margate.
The 5-foot-10, 200-pound, 23-year-old Granese and doubles row partner Jim Smith will be going for their second straight South Jersey title, and Granese will return in the final race, the singles row.
Granese and Smith, the bow man, swept the “Big Three” last year, the Dutch Hoffman Memorials, the Margate Beach Patrol World War II Memorials and the South Jerseys.
This year they’ve been behind Margate’s Chuck Gowdy and Chris Graves in each of the first four races, but have placed second three of those times, by six, five and 10 seconds, respectively. In the singles, Granese won this year’s Captain Michael D. McGrath Longport Memorials, was second in the Atlantic City Lifeguard Classic, and was third in the Margate Memorials.
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After taking the “Big Three” in 2014, Granese put a big finish on that season by winning the individual surfboat rescue at the Goudy Memorials, and the Hammer Row with Longport’s Mike McGrath.
A two-year member of the varsity-eight crew for St. Augustine Prep, Granese then rowed two years for the U.S. Naval Academy and the last two for the La Salle University varsity eight. He's in his sixth summer with the Atlantic City Beach Patrol.
He’s a member of the Egg Harbor City Volunteer Fire Company.
On rowing two races at a big lifeguard event: Doubles is not a walk in the park, especially with Margate in the race. It's a long, hard row, but I'm strong for the first row. When it's over I'm pretty tired, but I take time and breathe, and clear my head. In the warmup for the singles, I go out on the water and check the conditions. I stretch, breathe and re-collect myself. The singles is short enough, five-to-six minutes, but I approach it the same way as the previous race.
On being in the South Jersey Championships: Jim and I go all out in every race, so it's the same as any other race. The competition is fast, and it's been sorted out throughout the season. Margate, Avalon and Longport are three who are top caliber.
In the singles, Ashton Funk and Erich Wolf are really tough. The way I look at it, I don't think of who I'm racing, but I think to put my boat ahead of them all. We'll (Atlantic City) probably need 10 points to win South Jersey. Ashton and (Margate's) doubles crew should both be top-three. Us and Margate should both be top-three (in the team scoring), separated by one point or the tiebreaker.
On rowing with Jim Smith: What's special about Jim is that every race he gives a 100-percent effort. He has definitely helped me as a racer. We matured together as a crew. We're better as a pair than we were as individual parts.
On what it was like to sweep the “Big Three” last year: At this point it means something, but it's all about the past. It's a great accomplishment, but you can't admire what you've done. You can't dwell on it, you have to get better.
On when he started rowing: I started in December of 2006 in my freshman year at St. Augustine. (Assistant) coach Joe Maguire told us to row on the (ergometer machines) and then we went out and raced. I was in the freshman eight (in the spring), and it got me hooked on it.
On how beach racing compares with crew racing: I think what I really like about lifeguard rowing is that it's a much-heavier stroke. In crew you have eight guys trying to move a 200-pound boat, but in lifeguards it's one or two guys trying to move a 325-pound boat. To move it fast, it takes greater strength.
Lifeguard racing is a great atmosphere, a summer spectacle. South Jersey rowing is a relatively small group of rowers, and everybody is a very good sport about racing. There's a lot of camaraderie.
On his diet: I eat a balanced diet, and a lot of meat and chicken. Chicken wings are my favorite.
On being in The Wing Bowl at the Wells Fargo Center: I was in the College Division in the winter of 2014, and we were on center stage at the Wells Fargo Center. My eating name was Pep Pep. The College Division had one guy each from Temple, La Salle (Granese), Villanova, Penn and St. Joseph's. I ate 67 wings in 15 minutes and placed second. The guy from Penn ate 75. He won a car, and I got nothing. That teaches me that nobody ever remembers second place.