For the second year in a row a team of lifeguards from Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue outscored every other beach at the United States Lifesaving Association South Atlantic Regional Championships.
This year’s regional competition was held in North Myrtle Beach July 9-10, and included 17 ocean rescue agencies from Virginia Beach to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue is considered a small beach in the competitions with less than 100 paid lifeguards. It was the second year in a row it won that division, as well as outscoring all of the large beaches like Jacksonville Beach, Fla., and Virginia Beach. The team beat second place overall Jacksonville Beach by 130 points and increased its overall point total by 150 points over last year’s winning score for a total of 466 points.
Ocean rescue lieutenant Jon Mauney said the team was confident about repeating as the small beach champions but uncertain about the overall title.
“This year we knew Jacksonville would bring a bigger squad again, Nags Head would be tougher than last year and Corolla would be right up there again, so we didn’t know how it would turn out overall,” Mauney said. “When they read out the point totals and we beat Jacksonville by more than 130 points that was pretty great.”
The team was comprised of veteran lifeguards and six rookies, Mauney said, adding the rookies carried their weight in each of their events. The regional competition is comprised of more than 10 individual and team events including a 2k run, ocean swim, swim rescue, paddleboard race, surfski race and an ironman over the course of two solid days of competition.
“We took six rookies this year and they were not new to competitions with many of them being [University of North Carolina Wilmington] swimmers but they were new to lifeguard competitions,” Mauney said. “With us you are going to be competing in events from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. two straight days.”
The team’s ability to effectively handle that rigorous schedule is a testament to the Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue’s training, Mauney said.
“The guys on the competition team are generally training five days a week at making rescues, swimming and paddling together, and then there is another core group of us training another five times a week in the gym,” he said. “The bulk of the competition team is doing 10 to 12 workouts a week. If people are willing to work that hard, you can do a lot.”
However, Mauney said all the team’s talent would have been useless if not for the support of Wrightsville Beach citizens and businesses.
“We have the guys to compete but we don’t always have the equipment available,” he said. “We have to come up with the money so all of the sponsors that donate money to us in town are the only reason we are able to go.”
After wining at the regional level, Mauney said the team is focused on making it to the national contest with this year’s event held in Virginia Beach, Aug. 7-9.