When the 2013 Rhode Island Lifeguard Tournament came to a close on Saturday evening at East Matunuck, as has been nearly as much of a tradition as the tournament itself since the turn of the century, the lifeguards of Narragansett Town Beach swept the night’s events to cap off yet another tournament championship.
“Awesome week,” said Town Beach captain Dave Cannon, “not only for our team, but all lifeguards. Honestly, Lifeguard Week in general is amazing. The competition from all the beaches, it’s one of those things that everybody really gets into and it’s good for all the teams. A little competition, gets us to sharpen our skills up and it’s a blast.”
Though things got a little dicey as the weather began to turn late in the week, ’Gansett Town ran away early with the lead in the week long tournament, dominating from the onset en route to 219 points, 43 points better than second place Westerly (176).
Narragansett started the week by taking first place in five of the seven events on Mile Monday to go along with two second place finishes for a commanding early lead that seemed to only increase over the remaining five days of competition left on the docket.
“I can’t say the differences between us and the other teams, but I can say what we do,” said Cannon when asked how his squad had been able to be so dominant in recent years, “and we train so incredibly hard. We have morning training sessions as a crew that involve all the various components – running, swimming, entries into the water – and we combine that with actual training scenarios, so every single day my guys get a work out.
“We’re really lucky at Narragansett to have the means to be able to do that because our bosses at the Parks and Rec. department understand how important it is to have time in the day dedicated to train and train for life threatening situations. So, we’re lucky and we just train hard.”
In total, Narragansett took first in 17 of the 24 events the 2013 competition had to offer, highlighted by wins in the King Neptune race, men’s medley, four-man rescue and unassisted rescue. Points from their first place finishes alone would have garnered a second place finish. Only thrice did they finish outside of the top two spots.
“Narragansett has a strong team and a tradition of winning, but you never know what team is going to win any race on a particular day,” said tournament organizer David Hoffer. “While they certainly have a superiorly athletic team, the other beaches are no slouches either, so that’s part of it. If I’m deciding which beach to bring my child to, safety is never an issue. I’m confident all the beaches are well prepared.”
It was a fact on display on Friday night when the tournament shifted to Scarborough Beach for the men’s and women’s medley relay, a five-man race that features a running, swimming, paddling, kayaking and rowing component. The storms late last week kicked up strong surf and currents, turning the competition away from simply who was the more athletically gifted squad, but testing the all-around mettle as a lifeguard.
“There were some tough races,” said Hoffer of Friday’s competition, which also included the men’s and women’s torpedo relay, “but the guards are skilled and they’re good at their craft. They showed that if they can get out through that stuff, it bodes well on the days when there’s big surf on the beaches.
“For guys and girls to get through the surf in a boat like that, it’s pretty tough. I think it shows that the guards are trained and the captains are on top of things.”
Joining Narragansett and Westerly in the top three was Scarborough, who finished with 165 points, picking up the win in the men’s swim to go along with five second place finishes. Middletown’s Second Beach just missed out on the medal stand with 152 points, while East Matunuck finished with 104.
Roger Wheeler Beach closed out the tournament with 94 points.
Though it is the competition that brings them together, the Lifeguard Tournament is not solely about points and wins. It is a way for the state’s lifeguards to show the high level of safety at local beaches.
“It gives my whole team something to focus on all year, to just get better,” Cannon said. “Better at running, swimming, paddling and using all the equipment and rowing, kayaking. If they get better at each of those individual things, it means we all get better as a team and it equals safety. It equals the beach being a safer place. And that’s honestly what we really focus on.
“…It’s a competition, but think of the end product. It means we have a tighter, safer crew. That’s the best part about the games.”