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By Max Sullivan (seacoastonline.com)

Posted Aug 11, 2016 at 4:46 PM
Updated Aug 11, 2016 at 4:47 PM

OGUNQUIT, Maine - Hampton Beach lifeguards took first place in the annual Northern New England Lifesaving Championships for a third-straight year Tuesday, winning numerous challenges related to their work on the beach.

Hampton tallied 115 points overall, beating Ogunquit's 80 and Salisbury, Mass., lifeguards' 33. Lifeguards from Wells, York, Biddeford and Nauset, Mass. also competed.

Teams compete in both men's and women's categories, and the tallies from those groups for each team are combined to make for the overall score. Hampton won in both categories as well.

The competition involves numerous physical activities, ranging from swimming skills to demonstrating ability with floatation devices, including surfboards, to agility challenges.

One of the competitions is a sort of beach capture the flag game in which lifeguards race on foot to get items used as flags, and those who do not get a flag are out of the game.

"It's a vicious game," said Lee Brennan, assistant to the Hampton Beach lifeguard chief. "It's nasty."

Last year, Ogunquit lifeguards came in second to Hampton as well, with Hampton tallying 115.5 points and Ogunquit taking 99 points. That competition took place at Hampton Beach.

Brennan said Hampton Beach is beginning to become the team other lifeguard crews love to hate when the competition comes around each summer. Teams like Ogunquit and Salisbury, he said, always have strong teams, so winning the competition is no easy task. With teams like those, Brennan said it is fun for Hampton Beach to be on top.

"I think if you were to go up to Ogunquit, and that's the other biggest crew we tangle with, I think they probably would tell you they don't like us too much," said Brennan with a chuckle.

Brennan credited Hampton Beach's lifeguard captain, Patrick Murphy, with helping bring Hampton's lifeguards up to the level they are at right now. He said Murphy, who also works at Exeter High School, works hard to recruit the best swimmers in local high schools and the University of New Hampshire.

Brennan said it can be difficult to keep a quality lifeguard team together when many lifeguards come and go each year.

"Pat wouldn't tell you that because he's kind of modest, so I will tell you," said Brennan. "To be able to consistently put together a good team that turns over all the time is a real credit to the captain of the team."

Hampton lifeguards win regional competition

Hometown live-savers outlast the competition

By Max Sullivan (seacoastonline.com)

Posted Aug 5, 2015 at 8:21 PM
Updated Aug 6, 2015 at 3:08 PM

HAMPTON — Hampton Beach lifeguards took first place in the annual Northern New England Lifesaving Championships for the second year in a row, this time on their own beach.

Hampton Beach scored 115.5 points over the course of 16 events held from 9 a.m. to roughly 4 p.m. Ogunquit, Maine, lifeguards came in second with 99 points, followed by Salisbury, Mass., with 41.5 points. Five crews total competed.

Events included soft sand runs, paddleboard and surf rescues, 500 meter swims and 4x100 relays. First place scores earn teams five points.

The rescue events involved volunteer “victims” floating out in the surf. Competitors swam out to them and raced back with the “rescued” volunteer.

Jimmy Donahue, Hampton Beach chief lifeguard, said this was the first lifeguard competition in roughly 20 years to be held in Hampton. Most years, it’s been in Ogunquit, he said.

The competition is a fun reward for the lifeguards who train hard every day to stay in shape, Donahue said. He said he recalled partaking in competitions in the 1970s when he was in his 40s. He misses the fun, he said.

“All those hard, hard workouts every single morning, and it pays off when we have a competition like this where we can excel at most of the events,” Donahue said. “I’m really proud of this.”

For lifeguards, the day brings out their competitive nature, though all in good spirit.

C.J. Cronin of the Salisbury lifeguards said it’s “important to do well” at Hampton Beach since his crew has a rivalry with Hampton, two towns away.

Hampton Beach’s opponents said the home team definitely had a bit of an advantage. Xander Lumenello, 16, of the Ogunquit lifeguards, said Hampton Beach has especially soft sand, and the Hampton lifeguards are used to running in it. That helped in the two-mile run, added this year, he said.

However, even for the teams who fell behind the now back-to-back champions, the competition is all fun.

“It’s a beautiful day to come out and compete and just have a good time with fellow lifeguards," Cronin said.

“It’s been a blast so far. Oh my goodness,” said Griffin Simmons, 18, of the Ogunquit lifeguards.

Dan Ryan, 19-year veteran of the Hampton Beach lifeguards, said the competition is a good reminder to beachgoers of what it takes to be a lifeguard and how competent the lifesavers are that keep them safe. The beach was packed Wednesday, many standing outside event cones marking where the lifeguards ran, dived and swam.

“I think anytime people have confidence in emergency services, that’s a good thing,” Ryan said. “People should be confident in us, and (the competition) is a good way for them to see that.”

Hampton Beach lifeguards win northern New England title

By Kyle Stucker (seacoastonline.com)

Posted Aug 18, 2014 at 5:12 PM
Updated Aug 18, 2014 at 5:29 PM

HAMPTON — The accolades continue to roll in for Hampton Beach's lifeguards, as the local men's and women's teams combined to take first place Saturday in the 54th annual Northern New England Lifesaving Championships.

Hampton bested lifeguards from communities throughout New England and Nova Scotia en route to a men's first-place finish, a women's second-place finish, and an overall first-place finish.

The grueling competition, held in Ogunquit, Maine, also had special meaning for local lifeguards because it came just a day after a two-day period in which they made 16 water rescues, according to Capt. Pat Murphy, who said that total is above average and the most they've made so far this year.

“It proves our training is paying off,” said Murphy, referring to both the championship and the water rescues. “It's just a huge accomplishment. Everyone's proud and everyone's feeling good at the moment. It's huge for us. It means a lot to us.”

The championship title comes not long after Hampton's lifeguards received certification with the United States Lifesaving Association.

The certification means the lifeguards meet a high standard of excellence and allows them to train in-house rather than having to be trained by the American Red Cross.

Hampton finished in second place in the 2013 Northern New England Lifesaving Championships. The women's team won first place that year and the men won second.

Murphy said it was fulfilling to have another strong showing in this year's competition, particularly because some of the 10 events center around skills the lifeguards don't use around Hampton Beach that often, such as paddling.

Hampton won a number of the events this year, including the rescue reel team event, the 4-by-100 swim relay, and beach flags.

Murphy said lifeguards Wells Costello and Pat Casey finished first and second, respectively, in beach flags, a particularly intense event similar to musical chairs.

Murphy said the championship — the first for Hampton in at least a decade — is a “great feeling” and will help further the department's training and preparation.

“Anything to get you mentally and physically prepared for the job so in chance something does come up, you're ready to make sure everybody on this beach is safe and everybody can go home at end of the day,” he said.

Hampton lifeguards take 2nd in competition

By Nick B. Reid (seacoastonline.com) seacoastonline.com photo gallery of event.

Posted Aug 16, 2013 at 2:00 AM

OGUNQUIT, Maine — Competing in the Northern New England Lifeguard Competition in Ogunquit, Maine, Hampton Beach's finest impressed with a second-overall finish Wednesday.

The women's team beat Ogunquit by one point to take first place, while the men's team was edged out by Salisbury, Mass., by three points to finish in second. Overall, Salisbury took home the title, but Hampton's team was close behind in second.

In the 53rd annual competition, the lifeguards competed in events where they'd, for instance, run a mile then swim out 100 yards and perform a rescue. The run-and-rescue, Hampton's bread and butter, was the first event. Both the men's and women's teams won all three medals for the fastest times.

Other events included one swimming, while bringing a floatation device out to a victim in the water and two teammates then reeling that person in to shore; the "iron guard," which is a swim-run-paddle-run event, and others that included a lot of paddling, swimming, running and relays involving all three.

The women's team, though it took first place, only had one person, Katrina Morris, take home a gold medal.

"It really was a team victory because we only had one person win one event," said Lee Brennan, one of the chief lifeguards on Hampton Beach. He noted that meant the rest of the team had to pick up numerous second- and third-place finishes to take the top spot.

Others teams competing in the competition came from Nova Scotia, Wells Beach, Ogunquit and Salisbury.

Hampton's women's team was composed of Kathryn Kaspar, Alison Bartlett, Katrina Morris, Michaela Morris, Rebecca Mitchell and Maggie Noonan. The men's team included Wells Costello, who won an award for his "phenomenal performance" throughout the day, Ben Mitchell, Cam Phillips, Jason Boucher, Dan Ryan, Nick Africano, John Dolan, Kendall Kaspar, Pat Casey and Pat Murphy.

Brennan said the Hampton team is heavily focused on overall conditioning, learning first-aid, and real-world job training. On the other hand, Salisbury's team, he said, has specialists for each event and even recruits lifeguards that excel in certain areas.

"If we specialized, we would do much better," Brennan said.

Even still, Salisbury, which Hampton lifeguards consider to be their main rival, only beat Hampton by a half-point last year in the competition that covers Maine, New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts. This year was again very close, though Salisbury has now taken the crown for three straight years.

Capt. Pat Murphy, a 10-year veteran of the Hampton lifeguards, said the paddling events were one area where the team fell back. He said the lifeguards are out on the beach training every morning, but mostly they'll swim, run, sprint and do push-ups and sit-ups.

"We don't paddle much," Murphy said. "We run a lot; we swim a lot."

He said they prepare for the type of rescues that are most likely to be required on their home beach, rather than trying to win competitions.

"We don't train for (competitions); we train for the job," Murphy said.

Murphy pointed to the team's domination in the run-and-rescue event as evidence that they excel in their best area, noting that those who performed best in workouts were the ones chosen to represent the team.

"That's what we do," he said. "That's what we train."

Though Hampton hasn't hosted this competition since 1977, Brennan said they're hoping to welcome the other teams to Hampton Beach next year, since, he said, it's a large beach and the locals would enjoy watching the competition. Murphy said the locals are proud of their lifeguards' dedication and enjoy seeing them out training.

"The people here see us every day working out. Sometimes they cheer us, sometimes they heckle us, whatever they feel like that day," he said.

Alison Bartlett @ the N.E.E. Comp. 2014.
Patrick Casey & Wellesley Costello
@ the N.N.E. Comp. 2014.
Margaret Noonan & John Dolan
@ the N.N.E. Comp. 2014.
Daniel Ryan @ the N.E.E. Comp. 2014.
Quinn Parker @ the N.E.E. Comp. 2014.