LONG BRANCH: Close to 300 swimmers dove into the surf at Cottage Place beach for the 10th Annual Ray Licata Memorial One-Mile Swim, an event to honor a most remembered devotee of the beach and the city.
Awaiting the race Start, many recalled Licata the dedicated beach goer and advocate for safety on the West End beach at the southern section of the ocean front that brings families and ocean athletes back each year.
The Licata Committee director, Glenn Rassas reminded participants of the past friend who many knew personally. Rassas told them the proceeds from the event go toward equipment, surf craft, rescue boats and other facilities, and to aid lifeguards who provide beach protection.
Mayor Adam Schneider greeted the crowd with “The rules are, #1, go out… and #2, come back.”
The Atlantic was fairly calm, the current relatively light, pushing slightly westerly toward shore. Once swimmers reached the swim lane off shore, the swim north to the Pier Village beach went smoothly.
Event winner Connor Doyle of Ocean Grove said at first the breeze tended to push swimmers toward shore but was not an important element overall. He recalled last year’s current as much stronger, adding to the speed of contestants.
The first swimmers to go the mile and cross the Finish in 1, 2, 3 order were Connor, Stephen Benvenuto of Wall and Ryan Waters of Basking Ridge. The three swam the mile in close formation and around the last buoy, and then raced to the end line for a pass to the Turning Point Restaurant and a complimentary hot cup of great coffee.
Female winners were Hannah Elliott , of Long Branch, Kathryn Petrone, of Brielle, and Julie Stankiewicz, of Metuchen.
Weather was overcst and a cool breeze prevailed with drops of rain but no danger of lighting. One swimmer said it was actually pleasant to have the rain as they moved through the placid seawater.
Director Rassas thanked the Recreation Department for their assistance. The Licata family awarded Rassas with a plaque thanking him for his ten years of dedication to the city as the event manager.