The team of 14 Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue lifeguards that participated in the 2014 United States Lifesaving Association National Lifeguard Championships in Virginia Beach finished third in small beach and 10th overall out of 64 lifesaving teams from around the country.
Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue has won the overall title in USLA South Atlantic Lifesaving Association regional championships for two years in a row and can now add a third in small beach at nationals.
The national championships finished Saturday, Aug. 9, with many on the WBOR team wearing medals for individual and team placements in the top five events, and a team trophy for the third-place finish.
In small beach, WBOR finished behind Destin, Fla. Smith Point, N.Y., took first place with nearly 40 lifeguards.
The overall top three beaches were Monmouth County, N.J., the Los Angeles County Surf Life Saving Association and Smith Point. Monmouth County, the overall winners and winners of the large beach group, brought 90 lifeguards to nationals.
Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue Lieutenant Hunter Hay was one of the leaders for the team and said the team did not know what to expect leading into competition.
“Going into the contest we didn’t really have much of an idea because we hadn’t competed on that stage,” Hay said. “We had been to nationals once in 2007 with a few people and scored a couple points but … we didn’t know what we were getting into.”
Coming off a repeat overall first-place finish at the regional event, Hay said the caliber of lifeguards at nationals was inspiring to see.
“Regionally you will have a few of the best guys show up; when you go to nationals there are the best guys from every region throughout the country that show up,” he said. “The most rewarding thing was just seeing that our guys were on par with those guys and in almost every event we entered we had somebody in the finals.”
Fourman teams from WBOR placed third and fourth in the rescue races, and second and 15th in the landline race. Two of the team’s female members, Kathryn Yarbrough and Lindsey Lynskey, placed ninth and 10th respectively in the women’s open Ironman event.
“We have guards working here that are on par with the highest at the national level, which is pretty lucky for us,” Hay said. “We are a little beach crew comprised of 35 people and we took 14 to nationals and placed third.”
Following the expenses the team had to front for regionals, fundraising efforts were renewed to pay for the trip to Virginia Beach that included a barbecue plate sale at Wrightsville Beach Park during the Sounds of Summer concert July 31.
“It was a lot of work to put it together but in the end it really did benefit us and it is something we are hoping to turn into an annual event because it gives us an enjoyable way to interact with the community,” Hay said. “They can hang out and interact with us without us having to focus on the beach and the ocean.”
Looking to the years ahead, Hay said the team could take the gold.
“If we are able to get things figured out with some of the different equipment, be able to compete in all the races and get a few more guys to go, I don’t think it would be unrealistic for us to be challenging for that top spot on small beach,” he said. “It would be a lot of work but I think we could do it with the athletes we are consistently getting here.”