McGrath leads Longport to victory in namesake race

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longport5 Bill LeConey/Mike McGrath rows to a first-place finish to secure the team victory for the Longport Beach Patrol. LONGPORT - The Longport Beach Patrol successfully defended its home surf on Friday, July 11, in the 43rd annual Captain Michael D. McGrath Longport Memorial Lifeguard Races at the 33rd Avenue beach.

Longport rower Mike F. McGrath, son of the race's late namesake, edged Atlantic City's Vince Granese in the 1,000-foot singles row in what was practically a photo finish to secure the team win for Longport.

Longport scored 74 team points to win its home event for the first time since 2012. Atlantic City was second with 67 points and Ventnor third with 59.

The event was held this year in memory of Anne B. Leeds, 74, a retired school teacher and Longport resident who was killed in a plane crash along with six others on June 4 in Bedford, Mass. Anne Leeds was the wife of Longport Commissioner Jim Leeds.

longport8 Bill LeConey/Mike McGrath of the Longport Beach Patrol. The McGrath Longport Memorials is held in honor of his father, the late Mike McGrath, former Longport BP co-captain and longtime rowing champion. The singles row had an exciting finish as McGrath and Atlantic City's Granese rowed to shore almost simultaneously. Granese veered to the side while McGrath stayed straight to win the race in 5 minutes, 3 seconds.

"It's always nice to win your own race, especially when it's named after your father," said McGrath, 28, a firefighter at Atlantic City International Airport. "You want to represent your hometown. All your locals are here. You want to represent well for them, too."

Margate's Ashton Funk and Chuck Gowdy, the defending South Jersey doubles champions, won a closely contested Longport mile-long doubles row for the second straight year in 11:09, four seconds ahead of Atlantic City's Granese and Jim Smith. McGrath teamed with Sean Duffey to finish third in 11:15.

Shane McKenzie of the Brigantine Beach Patrol, who swims for the University of Notre Dame, won the half-mile swim for the second straight year, finishing in 11 minutes, 18 seconds - 32 seconds ahead of Ventnor's Mike Toy.

Former Atlantic City High School swim star Colleen Callahan, who now competes for the University of Tennessee, placed third in Friday's swim race, competing for the Ventnor Beach Patrol in only her second beach race.

Friday's event was the first of the summer featuring the three traditional races of the South Jersey Lifeguard Chiefs Association. The competition continues on Friday, July 18, with the Atlantic City Lifeguard Classic, involving all of the beach patrol teams from Atlantic and Cape May counties.

"You get an idea of where you are with everybody," McGrath said of the Longport event. "The doubles row was close - everybody was within five or six seconds - so it's going to be an interesting summer."

longport6 Bill LeConey/Vince Granese of Atlantic City finished second to Longport's Mike McGrath in a closely contested singles row Friday in Longport. longport7 Bill LeConey/Longport's Mike McGrath gets a victory ride from fellow Beach Patrol members and friends after his win in the singles row. longport1 Bill LeConey/Shane McKenzie of the Brigantine Beach Patrol swims to a first-place finish Friday in Longport. longport2 Bill LeConey/Shane McKenzie of the Brigantine Beach Patrol. longport3 Bill LeConey/Former Atlantic City High School swimming star Colleen Callahan placed third overall in Friday's swim, competing for the Ventnor Beach Patrol.

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