Sussex lifeguards snap fourth at finals

Fenwick Island Beach Patrol (FIBP) members knew that defending their title earned at last year’s United States Lifeguard Association (USLA) national competition wasn’t going to come easy when they traveled earlier this month to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. But FIBP, along with three other patrols in Sussex County, definitely proved that they were among the best in the nation, with impressive finishes in a wide range of competitions and a fourth-place overall finish.

“Our [Fenwick] guards have placed first or second in the past three years in the men’s open 4-by-100,” noted FIBP captain Tim Ferry, whose relay team, consisting of Colin Madden, Joseph Brzostowski, Matthew Lewis and Randy Vanderhook, had to settle for a third-place finish this year, behind the Smith Point, N.Y., team and the Bethany Beach team consisting of Ryan Hastings, John Marvaso, Nickolas Bakerian and Dominick DiSabatino.

“We had a miscue with our relay this year,” Ferry added. “But, even with that, we managed to make up ground and come in third. Bethany ran a great race.” The FIBP has won three national men’s 4-by-100 relay titles. At total of 50 teams competed in this year’s relay.

Ferry once again snagged the top slot in his age division in the open men’s beach flags competition – his 11th beach flag title – and said he is considering competing in the World Master’s Championship in Australia later this year. He and Lewis made it to the semi-finals of the open division, placing them among the top 30 guards in the country for the beach flags competition.

In the end, it was Rehoboth Beach’s Danial Matta who finished first in the open men’s flags, his fourth consecutive title. Dewey Beach Patrol’s Tom Humphrey took second, while Fenwick’s Vanderhook finished fourth overall. Cindy Fajardo, a guard at Sea Colony, finished third in her beach flags division for Sussex County.

Sussex County placed fourth in the country, behind Los Angeles County, Calif., New Jersey’s Monmouth County and Volusia County in Florida, respectively.

“Personally,” said Ferry, “from our patrol standpoint, we’ve proven year in and year out that we’re a team to contend with – not just as individuals at Fenwick Island, but as a team from Sussex County, Del. It’s truly a collaborative effort. There’s a lot of teamwork here on the East Coast. Everyone did an outstanding job.”

When pulling together this year’s patrol roster, Ferry lost 10 guards from last year’s team, which placed first overall.

“These competitions are where all the training comes in,” he added. “They register at both the physical and mental aspect, then the other fun stuff can set in. Our workouts are geared to that. The regimen we worked on at World Gym was very effective. Our workouts keep [our guards] in top physical shape, whether they compete at nationals or not.”

Bethany Beach Patrol Capt. Joe Donnelly said he was equally proud of his guards and Sussex County’s showing in the competition.

“Obviously,” he said, “competition is a fun part of the job, but it takes a back seat to the job they do out on the beach every day. We put focus on the guards to handle medical emergencies, water rescues, lost children and all of those things. It takes precedence over everything.

“We focus on training and staying in shape. The competition gives us opportunities to set goals, blow off steam, and it takes a little pressure off the job. The ultimate scoreboard, though, is how we perform here on the beaches of Sussex County.”