Hundreds Take the Challenge at the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim
Triumph for some, tragedy for one. The Great Chesapeake Bay Swim was full of emotion as hundreds of swimmers from across the country raise money for the March of Dimes.
Heat, humidity and a whole spectrum of emotions came early Sunday morning as hundreds of swimmers gathered on the shores of Sandy Point State Park to take on the challenge of swimming to the Eastern Shore.
Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim started by a former Winchester-on-the-Severn resident, Brian Earley. The event raised thousands yesterday for the Maryland chapter of the March of Dimes and other charities.
Tragically, officials believe one race participant suffered a heart attack. Annapolis resident Grahame Rice, 43, died after being pulled from the water early in the race.
An average of 600 swimmers start each year at Sandy Point State Park, swim between the two spans of the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge, and finish at the small sandy beach next to Hemingway's Restaurant on Kent Island. The swim, which is held on the second Sunday of June each year, attracts some of the best distance swimmers in the world along with athletes from all over the country.
In order to participate, the applicants had to submit documentation of either a recent completion of an open water swim or have completed a three-mile pool swim in less than two hours and 15 minutes. Several thousand swimmers have successfully completed this swim, but for more than 60 percent of the participants, this is a once in a lifetime event. In the last five years, 79 to 97 percent of the starters finished the 4.4-mile race.
Winning this year was Frederick Hviid, 36, who completed the 4.4-mile race in 1:32.57. The Frederick resident is a Spanish Olympic swimmer and in training for the 2012 open water events in London.
Arnold resident Taylor Smith, 19, finished second for the second year in a row with a time of 1:38.42. He is a 2010 Broadneck High School graduate and attends Ohio Wesleyan University.
“This was definitely the hardest race I have swam here,” Smith said of his third bay race. “The conditions were all over the place. The water was warm but there were cold spots. The water was flat and wavy, and the strong tide between the spans was pushing everyone south.”
For the second year in a row, Smith also won the $1,000 scholarship awarded by the Cynthia Earley Educational Foundation to the college-age swimmer who raises the most money for the charitable component of the bay race. A $500 scholarship was awarded to Ellen Drake, 18, of Cleveland Heights, Ohio. She will attend Oberlin College in the fall.
The race was cut short yesterday afternoon when storms rolled across the bay. Of the 600-plus swimmers who started the race, about 60 of them were pulled from the water mid-afternoon when lightening started striking the bay. Among those pulled from the water for the storm was Craig Dietz, 37, of Hummelstown, PA. Dietz was born without limbs and in addition to being a motivational speaker, he has swam in a number of open water races. This was going to be his longest race to date.
Before the cross-bay race began, 366 swimmers completed the One Mile Challenge Swim that started and finished on the beach at Hemingway’s. Top finisher was Joshua Burton-Prateley, 15, of Sparks, who swam the course in a record 17:39. Top local finisher was Alden Bauman, 15, of Annapolis. She mastered the race in 19:29. The Broadneck High School rising sophomore finished seventh overall and was first in the girls 15- to 19-year-old division.
Two other top finishers from area high schools include Janine Bach, 15, of Annapolis who placed second in her age group with a time of 20:52. She attends Annapolis High School. And Arnold resident Logan Smith, 14, also a rising sophomore at Broadneck High School, finished first in the under 15 boys bracket with a time of 21:41. He outpaced the second place competitor in the bracket, Carlos Obregon, 12, of Marlton, NJ, by two one-hundredths of a second.