Sea Isle City's Jeff Buyse rides a wave toward the beach during his victory in the rescue board race at the Beschen-Callahan Memorial Lifeguard Races in North Wildwood on Monday.

Brian Cunniff

NORTH WILDWOOD – A disqualification made the team scoring at Monday’s 49th annual Beschen-Callahan Memorial Lifeguard Races as tight as could be.

Sea Isle City, Avalon and Wildwood Crest each finished with 14 points. Sea Isle was awarded the championship by virtue of the highest finish among the three in the race’s tiebreaking event, the doubles row. Avalon was awarded second place and Wildwood Crest finished third.

Scoring for the race was done on a 5-3-2-1 basis for first through fourth places.

“We’re in total shock to win this,” Sea Isle City Beach Patrol Captain Rennie Steele said. “We were trying to keep the scoring as the race went on but it was so hard to tell. We were thinking second, third, maybe event fourth. We had no idea we had a chance for first place.”

Avalon missed out on the team championship when its surf dash relay team, which would have finished in first place, was disqualified for a uniform violation. According to race director Bill Ciavarelli, captain of the North Wildwood Beach Patrol, Avalon’s last of its four competitors in the event did not wear a swim cap, which Ciavarelli said is required by rule for team identification purposes.

Sea Isle took the team championship behind a pair of lifeguards who won their respective events for the second time in as many races. Conall Loughlin took first in the box swim and Jeff Buyse claimed victory in the rescue board race. Both were also first-place winners in the same events at the Cape May County Lifeguard Championships on July 7.

Loughlin, a 22-year-old Penn State water polo athlete, won the swim by 26 seconds over Wildwood Crest’s Jon Burkett. The race featured runs of about 150 yards at the start and finish sandwiched around the box swim.

“I kind of like the running because I run a lot in my offseason,” Loughlin said. “It’s great to win these first two races. Hopefully it’s a confidence booster for me. It lets me know that what I’m doing is right and I can keep on doing it. It helps to see the training pay off. And it’s always great to have all the guys on the patrol behind you yelling and screaming for you.”

Buyse was also a comfortable winner in his event, winning the rescue board race by 23 seconds over Wildwood’s Tom Coleman. Buyse slowed his stroke and allowed the waves to usher him to the beach near the end of the race.

“It’s always good to be out front early because you get to look back and try to catch a wave and relax a little,” said the 25-year-old Buyse. “It’s great to get a wave to bring you in the rest of the way.”

Sea Isle also gained important points – and the critical tiebreaker – behind a second-place doubles row finish by Justin Naylor and Pat Scannapieco, who were one place behind Upper Township’s Ryan Fischer and Kyle Rumaker.

Fischer and Rumaker are Upper Township residents who both rowed for the Ocean City High school crew team. Fischer, 19, currently rows at LaSalle, while Rumaker, 18, is set to row at the University of Delaware during the upcoming scholastic year.

“We’ve been on the bottom of these races before so it’s great to see the hard work pay off, not only now, but it’ll push us to work even harder in the future,” Rumaker said.

Avalon’s disqualification in the surf dash relay opened the door for Wildwood Crest’s team of Brett Pederson, Pat Bakey, Jake Klecko and Burkett to win first place.

Avalon’s Erich Wolf, a 2004 Middle Township High School graduate and 19-year lifeguarding veteran, won the singles row. He held a relatively large lead toward the end of the race but wound up using numerous power strokes after his boat fell off a couple of waves that could have made for an easy finish.

“I’m in my 19th year lifeguarding and I’ve been competing out of town for 14 or 15 years now and the one thing you learn is that a race is never over until you cross that line,” said Wolf, a teacher at Atlantic County Institute of Technology. “Weird things can happen in ocean racing. You just keep rowing until the boat hits the beach.”

Avalon’s Sean Stevens won the event’s final race, the can run, which is essentially a one-person surf dash during which competitors carry a rescue buoy. The Beschen-Callahan competition is the only South Jersey lifeguard race to include a can run.

The Beschen-Callahan Memorial Lifeguard Races are held in honor of Jim Beschen and Mike Callahan, two former North Wildwood lifeguards and United States military servicemen who were killed in separate incidents during the Vietnam War.

“I know Beschen and Callahan were Vietnam veterans and they gave their life for our country,” Sea Isle’s Steele said. “It’s an honor and it makes it special when you can win something that honors veterans and our military.”

The event was originally scheduled for last Friday but was postponed due to thunderstorms.

TEAM SCORING: 1. Sea Isle City 14; 2. Avalon 14; 3. Wildwood Crest 14; 4. Wildwood 12; 5. Upper Township 5; 6. North Wildwood 5; 7. Stone Harbor 2.

DOUBLES ROW: 1. Ryan Fischer and Kyle Rumaker (UT); 2. Justin Naylor and Pat Scannapieco (UT); 3. Jacob Enright and Matt Wolf (A); 4. Brandon Joyce and Steve McGuinn (W).

SWIM: 1. Conall Loughlin (SIC); 2. Jon Burkett (WC); 3. Bill Auty (W); 4. John Batley (A).

RESCUE BOARD: 1. Jeff Buyse (SIC); 2. Tom Coleman (W); 3. Brett Pederson (WC); 4. John Gregory (A).

SURF DASH RELAY: 1. Wildwood Crest (Brett Pederson, Pat Bakey, Jake Klecko, Jon Burkett); 2. North Wildwood; 3. Wildwood; 4. Sea Isle City.

SINGLES ROW: 1. Erich Wolf (A); 2. Brandon Joyce (W); 3. Pete Lees (NW); 4. Jordan Roney (WC).

CAN RUN: 1. Sean Stevens (A); 2. Brett Pederson (WC); 3. Alex Corbett (SH); 4. Ryan Comas (W).