The long-awaited day of the race finally arrived, mercifully sunny and warm after a week of clouds and rain, and by 5:30 this morning, West Neck Beach was a-bustle with activity, as West Neck Pod members – including race co-director Rob Ripp, Safety Director Carol Moore and Awards Co-coordinator Margot Edlin – hauled tables and chairs, cartons of oranges, bananas, and t-shirts, and hundreds of bottles of water from the lifeguard station where they’d been stored overnight, along with a dozen massive swim buoys that had been painstakingly inflated the night before by Hospitality/Logistics Coordinators Rob Todd and Ken Longo. Batting away at the army of gnats that descended in the windless parking lot, a steadily growing cadre of volunteers, organized by Pod member Evelyn Cruise and YMCA Executive Director Eileen Knauer, arrived and donned their yellow t-shirts (designed and procured by Pod members Joan Addabbo and Tommy Capobianco) and swiftly transformed this quiet, sleepy little waterfront venue into the site of what is destined to be one of the premiere open-water swimming events on Long Island: The First Annual Huntington-Cold Spring Harbor 1 and 2 Mile Swim at West Neck Beach!
One by one, the support boats began to arrive, with Karen McArdle and Bill (Hon. William B.) Rebolini taking their places at the south and north turn buoys, and the Huntington and Oyster Bay Harbormasters beginning their patrol of the course, while Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department volunteers stationed themselves on the beach along with ambulances from the Huntington Community First Aid Squad, under the medical supervision of race physicians and Pod members Paval Romano, M.D. and Anne Neder, M.D. Event co-sponsor SeaTow hauled the swim buoys from the beach then methodically placed them along the half-mile length of the 1 and 2 mile courses carefully laid out by Pod member Rob Martell, along with the 400 meter course for swimmers 10 and under. A flotilla of kayakers, under the supervision of Barry Goldblatt, and a squad of Pod-member lifeguards led by Pod member Sal Romanello, arrived for their pre-race briefings on course conditions and safety protocols, then took up their posts within the swim lines for the swimmer warmup, then along the perimeter of the course to await the beginning of the first race.
Swimmers and their families and friends were next to arrive, filling the parking lot to nearly overflowing, and helping themselves to complimentary bagels and fruit at the hospitality tables while they waited for the race to begin. Swimmer registration was smoothed by the pre-race efforts of Pod member and race co-director Colleen Driscoll, and adroitly handled by Pod and other volunteers. Race officials, among whom was Pod member Joye Toor, took their appointed places and, at the scheduled time (using the detailed timeline prepared by race organizer and Pod member Rob Ripp, announcer Bob Fonti summoned the first wave of swimmers into the chute for the in-water start, then, with the pop of the starter’s gun, the first wave was off. Four waves later, there were a total of 181 swimmers churning the waters of Cold Spring Harbor as they made their way once or, for the two-milers, twice around the course. By the time the last wave was approaching the first turn, the two fastest of the 17-and-under group had caught up with them, then surged past the pack as they rounded the turn, taking their first and second place finishes scant minutes later as the crowd of more than a hundred spectators on the beach cheered!
As each of the next 179 swimmers stumbled out of the water and onto the finish ramp the crowd cheered again, and again as the winners accepted their awards (procured by Pod members Nancy Lipira, Margot Edlin and Lynne Perzetstzy) after the results were quickly and efficiently compiled. (Final results have yet to be posted, but among the recipients of those awards were Pod members Scott Kessler, Ken Longo, Tim Sullivan, Don Bond, Todd Rowley, Liz Perlstein, Nancy Reycraft, Armand D’Amato, and Louie Carminati!)
From the time the idea of a sanctioned swim at West Neck Beach was first conceived more than a year ago, West Neck Pod members have spent months and months meticulously planning, organizing, strategizing, problem-solving, and problem-anticipating, in an endeavor to create an open-water swim event in our home venue that brings to newcomers the same sense of joy and appreciation of this remarkable harbor that we who swim there regularly enjoy. The race planning committee’s respectful collaboration and teamwork, and the invaluable contributions of the many race-day volunteers (both of which included many non-Pod members!) culminated today in an open-water swim event that participants and spectators uniformly agreed was virtually flawless. I am very proud of my West Neck Pod community, which was so pleased to welcome all of you to our home – and we look forward to seeing all of you next year!
(Other West Neck Pod volunteers: Gae Polisner, Annmerie Kearney, Bonnie Millen, Kaitlyn Robinson, Sue Robinson, Bob Miller, Carole Wickham, Kathy Wickham, Mike Engel, and others whose names escape me right now!)