Avalon breaks through at Beschen-Callahans

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Avalon breaks through at Beschen-Callahans Avalon's Anthony Richardson places first in the can run NORTH WILDWOOD – Two things occurred for the very first time at the 46th annual Beschen-Callahan Memorial Lifeguard Races Friday evening.

First, on a somber note, John Callahan was not present at the race for the first time. Callahan, who passed away in January, was the father of former Army Specialist Michael Callahan, who was killed on active duty during the Vietnam War in June 1969. Michael Callahan and Jim Beschen, who was also killed during the Vietnam War, were two former North Wildwood Beach Patrol lifeguards for whom the race is named.

A moment of silence was held in Mr. Callahan’s memory during the post-race awards ceremony.

Second, the Avalon Beach Patrol claimed the team championship for the first time behind a handful of stirring performances in the six-event competition.

Avalon won three events and scored in two others to post 20 points to win by a comfortable margin over Wildwood Crest (11) and Upper Township (10). Sea Isle, Wildwood and host North Wildwood also participated.

Erich Wolf, a 2004 Middle Township High School graduate, clinched victory for his patrol in the next-to-last event by taking first place in the singles row. The win served as redemption for the 2011 South Jersey singles champion, who finished second at the county championships four days earlier after coughing up the lead by getting turned around in choppy waters just before the finish.

This time, Wolf again got caught up in waves near the finish, but managed to straighten the boat quickly and floated across as the winner.

“It was a long four days. I was steaming. I was really mad at myself. I’m glad I corrected it here,” Erich Wolf said. “I was pretty indignant about what happened so I worked on a few things this week. When I got caught up (on a wave), I just went a bit further back in my seat and let the oars fall back and let the boat straighten out naturally.”

Matt Wolf and Jacob Enright won the doubles row The win was Wolf’s second straight in the Beschen-Callahan singles race.

Wolf’s older brother, Matt, also a graduate of and currently a teacher and wrestling and football coach at Middle, and Jacob Enright, a 2011 graduate of Middle who now rows at Marist University, opened the competition with a win in the doubles row. The victory represented the first in an out-of-town race for the crew.

“We have so many great rowers pushing us every day that we can’t take a day off,” Matt Wolf said. “That really helped us get ready for this.”

Avalon’s other first-place finish came in the can run. Boston College swimmer Anthony Richardson, a native of Garnet Valley, Pa., caught a wave toward the finish to separate himself from a pack of competitors.

“That was very, very exhausting,” Richardson said. “I was really happy I caught that wave. I practiced body surfing and standing up from the water all week to get ready.”

John Gregory placed second in the swim and Enright joined Greg Lang, Joe Wirth and Jimmy O’Connor for a third-place finish in the surf dash relay to account for the rest of Avalon’s scoring.

Upper Township’s Kevin Gill, four days after winning two events at the county competition, took first in the swim. The standout Ocean City High School swimmer beat Gregory by 13 seconds.

“I tried to keep looking behind me on the way in to see where everyone was, but I couldn’t see anything,” Gill said. “I had to go hard the whole way because I had no idea where everyone else was.”

Sea Isle’s Jeff Buyse scored victory in the rescue board race, which was held for the first time at the Beschen-Callahan event. The seventh-year lifeguard and Ocean City High School graduate, who works at a Colorado ski resort in the winter, topped Wildwood Crest’s Kevin Kelly, who had won the same event at the county championships.

“We were all pretty close,” Buyse said. “It was pretty competitive. It was definitely a good race. I was just able to get out in front this time.”

Wildwood Crest won the surf dash relay event for the second straight competition. The county champions beat Stone Harbor’s team by four seconds. The Crest’s team included Terry McGovern, Cameron Aregood, Brett Peterson and Gabe Keown.

The entire six-event competition was staged in an extremely efficient 1 hour, 5 minutes.

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