About 300 Fill VINP Waters for 11th Annual Beach to Beach Power Swim

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First place men’s long course solo swimmer Rex Tullius, 27, emerges from the water at Hawksnest Bay.

Swimmers plunge into the water at the startling at Maho Bay.

Rex Tullius and JJ Washshah Win Long Course Solo

North Shore ­— Just about 300 swimmers kicked off from Maho Bay beach on Saturday morning, May 24, in the 11th Annual Beach to Beach Power Swim hosted by Friends of Virgin Islands National Park.

The event offered three different courses and three different categories for the swimmers. The short course, about one mile, ended at Cinnamon Bay; the intermediate course, about two and one quarter miles, ended at Trunk Bay; and the long course, about three and one half miles, ended at Hawksnest Bay.

Competitors were able to swim assisted, with the use of fins and a snorkel, or unassisted, and either complete solo or in a three-person relay.

One hour, 12 minutes and 43 seconds after jumping into the water at Maho Bay beach, Rex Tullius ran ashore at Hawksnest Bay, winning his second consecutive Beach to Beach men’s long course solo title.

(L to R above) First and second place men’s long course solo finishers Rex Tullius and Matthew Mays with Brett Fraser, who swam the third leg of winning long course relay. team

“It was fun out there, but it was a little choppy out in the middle,” Tullius said.

Tullius, 27, is a graduate of the University of Florida where he won the 2009 SEC title in the backstroke and called U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte roommate.

Swimming in his second Beach to Beach Power Swim, Tullius edged out Matthew Mays, 15, of St. Croix who finished in second place with a time of one hour, 12 minutes and 52 seconds.

“This is my second time doing the long course,” said Matthew Mays, a member of the St. Croix Dolphins swim club. “I’ve been swimming since I was five and I did the shorter courses before.”
Matthew Mays enjoyed relatively smooth conditions in the open water swim, he added.

“It was pretty nice, but it definitely got rough,” said the swimmer.

Matthew Mays’ big brother, Bryson Mays, 19, finished in third place after making a navigational error in the Trunk Bay area, he explained.

“Coming into Trunk Bay I didn’t see the last buoy,” said Bryson Mays.  “I had to turn around and go back and I fell off the leaders.”

Bryson Mays, a cadet at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, finished in a time of one hour, 15 minutes and 38 seconds and kept himself in the top three Beach to Beach Power Swim long course solo finishers for the fifth year in a row.

“I won the race three times and last year I came in second,” said Bryson Mays. “I finished third this year and I really hope I don’t finish in fourth place next year.”

On the women’s side it was first time competitor JJ Washshah, 16, of St. Croix who took the women’s long course solo title with a time of one hour, 21 minutes and 23 seconds. The sprint specialist has been swimming for 10 years and is also a member of the St. Croix Dolphins swim club.

“I am a sprinter, so this was a little long for me,” said Washshah. “But I actually love open water long distance swims. I love the Buck to Buc five mile swim on St. Croix, so that helped.”

Veteran women’s long course solo winner Barbara Crowder, 56, finished in second place this year with a time of one hour, 21 minutes and 51 seconds.

“I’ve competed six times and I’ve won it three times,” said Crowder. “It was pretty nice out there but was rough out at Windswept and around Denis.”

Third place in the women’s solo long course went  to new-comer Jill Mullany, a 21-year-old recent graduate of Providence College who finished in a time of one hour, 26 minutes and 27 seconds.

“I swam at Providence but I was a sprinter,” said Mullany. “This was pretty long for me, but it was really nice out there.”

With finish lines and time keepers positioned at each of the three course beaches and an awards ceremony and after party at Oppenheimer Beach — featuring freshly grilled food, cold drinks and DJ music — the logistics of Beach to Beach Power Swim seem daunting. Friends of VINP Executive Director Joe Kessler chalked the day’s success up to experience and plenty of help.

“We’ve learned a few things over the years,” said Kessler. “But we could not do this without our volunteers.”

For a full list of results from the 11th Annual Beach to Beach Power Swim go to http://www.friendsvinp.org.