Seven Mile Times

Endless Summer 2018

‘A Pretty Good Year’

Avalon & Stone Harbor Lifeguard Teams Had Their Moments

By Dave Bontempo

Erich Wolf participating in the singles row at the South Jersey Championship.

One if by sand, two if by sea.


The Stone Harbor and Avalon beach patrols piled up points on different surfaces in the 2018 lifeguard racing circuit: Stone Harbor displayed proficiency in events involving the beach, while Avalon was sharp in the water.


It was an interesting campaign.


For Avalon, the year featured twists and turns. The squad captured an eighth consecutive Kerr Memorial championship, received an outstanding year from ironman Erich Wolf, a consistent one from his brother Matt and the projection of future impact from newcomers Gary Nagle, Brandon Hontz and Ryan Caffrey.


This also was a breakout year for the women, led by doubles rowing partners Reilly Bonner and Danielle Smith, along with swimmer McKensie Meyer. They led a string of second- and third-place team finishes for Avalon in the Longport, Ocean City and Ventnor race competitions. Izzy Begley and Alyssa Sittineri added timely contributions.


Bonner also secured a victory in the singles race in Ventnor. In Ocean City, Bonner and Smith captured the row-swim, and Meyer and Sittineri secured second in the paddle-board pickup race.


Reilly Bonner during her first place singles row at the Bill Howarth Women’s Invitational.


“When you put everything together, it was a pretty good year,” says Avalon captain Murray Wolf, the father of Matt and Erich. “We did not do well at the South Jerseys [seventh place among 15 patrols], but we had a real good night at the Kerrs, which is always important to us, and the women had their best year ever.


“They were pretty good last year, and this year they became even better. I think if you added up the points over all the races, we were up there with everybody. I hope we get them back next year.”


Shannon Kelly running anchor leg


Smith and Bonner combined for second in the doubles row at the Longport Women’s Invitational, and Meyer finished fourth in a pair of early-season races, helping Avalon take second place as a team.


The Avalon men’s season took a familiar journey. The team started slow, then gained momentum through the Beschen-Callahan races, notched a second in the high-profile Atlantic City Classic and dominated the Kerr Memorials that it hosts.


McKensie Meyer participating in the surf dash competition at the Bill Howarth Women’s Invitational.


Erich Wolf compiled victories in the Cape May County race in Wildwood Crest and two wins in the Beschen-Callahans in North Wildwood. Matt teamed with Erich for a Beschen-Callahan triumph in the doubles row and partnered with Gary Nagle to finish third in the doubles rescue, helping Avalon nab second as a team at the Atlantic City Classic.


The Wolf brothers forged some personal history at the Beschen-Callahans. It was their first victory ever in an out-of-town race, as they rarely ride together. The unique pairing was brought about by the departure of Jake Enright, Matt’s doubles partner of five years. Enright joined a Navy SEALS program in California.


Erich Wolf went on to a close singles victory against Longport’s Mike McGrath in the Atlantic City Classic, which launched a nice late-season rivalry between the two stars.


Erich Wolf, singles row.


The Kerrs became a team highlight reel as Avalon wired the field. Bursting from the gate in the doubles competition, Avalon gained a first place from Matt Wolf and Nagle. Craig Whitehead and Shane McGrath were second, just 5 seconds apart. With a scoring system of 5-3-1 for the first three places, Avalon secured eight points in a 5-second span and never looked back.


It became all Avalon, all the time.


Matt Wolf and Craig Whitehead, doubles row.


Erich Wolf then triumphed handily in the singles row. He later teamed with Caffrey and Hontz for an ironman-relay triumph in a swimmer-runner-rower format. In the surf-dash relay, Avalon triumphed behind Greg Carr, Michael Corcoran, Jack Mooney, Ryan Black and Martin Caron.


Erich Wolf continued blazing in the Margate Memorials, another of the lifeguard-circuit majors. His victory in the singles row helped Avalon achieve a second-place finish in the team event. It was also his second triumph over McGrath, who turned the tables one week later.


Christopher Eckhardt finishing the swim competition at the South Jersey Championship.


McGrath won the South Jerseys and Wolf finished fourth, 11 seconds behind. There was essentially a three-boat photo finish for second place. Wolf had won this coveted crown last year. The South Jerseys, dating back to 1924, brings all of the area’s 15 patrols together. McGrath’s victory gave Longport its third successive team title, stamping it as an area racing dynasty.


“I was a little disappointed at the South Jerseys, but all in all it was a year I was proud of,” Erich Wolf says. “Next year will be here before we know it.”


Stone Harbor captain Sandy Bosacco was pleasantly surprised by the conditioning shown by recruits in late May. A number of patrol members posted 1-mile times inside of 5 minutes. He noted the patrol’s recent proficiency in the short, quick races that resemble the sprint involved in a rescue near shore.


Tricia Stump and Emily Messina, doubles row.


This turned out to be the deepest part of the team. Stone Harbor turned out some good runners and scored consistently on the beach throughout the season.


Tricia Stump runs out of the water.


It posted a solid second-place finish behind Avalon as a team in the Kerr Memorials. The surf-dash relay unit of Kurt Kircher, Kieran McVan, Brendan Koziol, Sam Fuchs and Dan Egan notched second-place points in their event. In the unique ironman relay, calling for swimmer-runner-rower, Stone Harbor scored another second with Alex Corbett, James Gusmer and Dennis Bakey.


Justin McLellan runs into the water.


Gusmer showed versatility on the sand, securing a fourth-place finish in the 2-mile beach run. He clocked in at 10:16, just 11 seconds off the winning time.


Lt. Keith Gabor and Lt. Dennis Bakey with the Stone Harbor lifeboat.


Stone Harbor also finished third in the season-opening surf dash at the Cape May County championships, assembling 10 patrols.


On the women’s side, Emily Messina and Tricia Stump were third for Stone Harbor in the run/swim event in the Ocean City Invitational.

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