A Sprinter Won the 5K Ocean Challenge

There were 136 competitors in all, divided among 5K, one-mile, and half-mile swims that ended at Montauk’s Ditch Plain Beach
Lori King is to swim in the Kalamata-Koroni 30K prize-money event in Greece on Sept. 9. She said she just hopes to finish. Jack Graves

Greg Stautner, who times the East Hampton Village Ocean Rescue Squad’s Ocean Challenge distance swims, said at the event Saturday that the numbers this year were so great that he had to reallocate the chips of no-shows.

There were 136 competitors in all, divided among 5K, one-mile, and half-mile swims that ended at Montauk’s Ditch Plain Beach.

“That kid was fast,” the 5K’s runner-up, Mike Petrzela, who’s 42, said of the winner, Jonathan Boffa, a 24-year-old native of Italy who lives in New York City now.

It was “a first” in a number of ways for Boffa, a native of Verona and a former sprinter (the 100 freestyle) on Italy’s national team who is a graphic designer now for the Deutsch agency. “It was my first open water swim, my first 5K, and it’s the first time I’ve been out here,” said Boffa, who was a house guest of the fifth-place finisher, Matt O’Grady.

Swimming, he agreed — Boffa swims three times a week at Chelsea Piers — helps to assure a good mind-body balance. “The water was flat, it was gorgeous,” he said of the 5K swim.

“At about the halfway mark, he’d left everyone in his wake,” Dan Gualtieri, one of the Ocean Rescue Squad members working the event, said.

The winner’s time was 1 hour, 4 minutes, and 26 seconds. Petrzela was the runner-up, as aforesaid, in 1:11:56. “The first two were Europeans,” Petrzela, a native of the Czech Republic, and a former Syracuse University swimmer, said. It was, he added, perhaps the first time in recent years that he’d bested his friendly rival and former New York Athletic Club teammate, David Powers, who was seventh, in 1:16:50. The two broke the tape, as it were, together at Ditch Plain last year.

There were 15 in the 5K, including the former perennial winner, Rod McClave, who finished fourth, and Lori King, the women’s winner (and eighth over all), who has the Catalina Channel and the Eight Bridges race in the Hudson River among her super-long-distance credits.

King, who is to vie in the 30K Kalamata-to-Koroni open water race in Greece on Sept. 9, said of the Ocean Challenge, “These guys [the East Hampton Village Ocean Rescue Squad] have it down. It’s the best-run open water swim I know of. You never feel alone, as you do in some of them. You know that if you can’t see a buoy, there will be someone right there beside you.”

As for the Kalamata-Koroni race, which offers prize money, King said, “It’s about 18 miles. There are crazy winds. . . . I’ve wanted to do it for about seven years, but they usually do it over the Labor Day weekend, when school starts. The top finishers do it between 7 and a half to 10 and a half hours. There’s a cut-off, which I think I can make. I’m just looking to finish.”

Women — Casey Bice (23:03), Sophia Taylor (23:44), Margaret Tato (23:55), and Angelika Cruz (24:48) — swept the top four places in the one-miler, which drew 66 competitors. William Garry, whose daughter, Kira, had won the Montauk Lighthouse sprint triathlon the week before, was fifth, in 25:15.

There were 45 in the half-mile, whose top three finishers were Thinley Edwards, in 9:42, Cian Bice, in 12:27, and Chase Lieder, in 13:00.

Susan Henkin, who is the Montauk Playhouse Community Center Foundation’s executive director, said the goal of a pool there, now that East Hampton Town has agreed to match the $3 million that had initially been raised, was being neared. “We’re going in for site plan approval this week,” she said, “though there’s still more to be done. We’re hoping to raise the remaining $2 million soon. We’re hoping, if all goes well, to start construction within a year and to open sometime in 2019.”

“And let’s hear it for the women,” she said in parting. “The first four out of the one-mile race were women. They rule!”

“And they weren’t even the winners,” a spectator said admiringly during last Thursday’s Main Beach lifeguard tournament’s 4-by-100 relay event. Durell Godfrey
The Ocean Challenge 5K’s winner, Jonathan Boffa, is at the right, with Matt O’Grady, with whom he was staying, and Mike Petrzela, the runner-up. Jack Graves