It was all smiles and high fives on the beach at Potter Cove Saturday morning where the Save the Bay swimmers and spectators were treated to an appearance from local legend Elizabeth Beisel.
Beisel, a three time Olympian from North Kingstown who brought home a silver and a bronze from the London Games had a few issues holding her line in the choppy open water. She went off line a couple of times after seizing the lead. Today, “the field swam 1.7 miles and Liz swam 2” was the joke going around the “Wave I” elite athletes.
As Beisel was approaching Potter Cove spectators on the beach could see her veering off line with Albert Garcia a short distance behind. In a classy move of sportsmanship Garcia stopped briefly to gesture a course correction to her and waited. She joined him and they swam in together to the delight of the fans. Beisel and Garcia had the same time, 40:17.
In the spirit of the event an athletes time and place tend to become incidental in the Bay swim. It’s more about the camaraderie, the fantastic venue and the visible progress that’s been made over the years explains Garcia. “It’s really the camaraderie that keeps us coming back” he says.
The mood on the beach at Potter Cove is festive and its obvious that this isn’t just another swim but one that is coveted. The athletes are bonded in the disciplined lifestyle that is required to enable participation in the Bay Swim year in and year out. Everything about the event including the professionalism of the event staff make it special. It is deeply satisfying to see the progress that has been made with the funds the swimmers have raised to clean up and preserve Narragansett Bay. It goes beyond individual achievement. Its about making a contribution to something bigger then yourself..
Cumberland native Ron Gillooly finished 2nd in his age group and 8th overall in 42:28. On the beach in Potter cove he was congratulated by two other elite swimmers, Tim Brown who finished 4th in 41:28 and Dave Palloty, also from Cumberland who was 10th in 42:58.
When asked how many more Bay swims he had in him Gillooly, 57 replied “I’d like to continue into my early 80’s” This raised a few eyebrows from those listening in however Brown and Palloty knew he was serious.
“If I don’t miss any swims I’ll be 82 when I swim the Bay for the 50th time. It’s important to have goals to keep you motivated and to keep you on task” he said. “And 50 is a nice round number.”
Over 340 swimmers participated in this, the 42nd Save the Bay swim.