Extra Points: Brigantine, NJ caps season with South Jersey Title
By DAVID WEINBERG
MARGATE - Brigantine rower Jack Savell made sure his final appearance at the 83rd South Jersey Lifeguard Championships would be memorable. The sixth-year lifeguard won the singles row and also teamed with younger brother Joe to win the doubles race to help Brigantine win the team title for the first time in over 30 years at Margate's Decatur Avenue beach last Friday.
"This is my last year as a lifeguard and I couldn't ask for a better way to go out," said Jack Savell, who is entering his junior year at Cornell University as an economics major.
Brigantine won the team trophy while defending champion Margate finished second and Longport took third. It was Brigantine's first win since 1992, when it shared the title with Avalon and Ocean City. Its last outright win came in 1979.
To give an idea how long ago that occurred, "Apocalypse Now" was the top movie that summer, the Boomtown Rats topped the music charts with "I Don't Like Mondays," and a certain columnist was renting canvas rafts for 50 cents an hour while working at Steger's Beach Service in Cape May before entering his senior year at Appalachian State University in North Carolina.
"It felt great to win the doubles and singles, but getting the team win was the main thing," Jack Savell said.
With Lucy the Elephant hovering over the competition, a large, boisterous crowd watched the local version of what is considered the Super Bowl of lifeguard races. The doubles row, swim and singles row were conducted in a relatively calm ocean, a sharp contrast to the rough conditions that greeted the competitors in the previous week's Margate Memorials.
"The course was definitely flatter than last week and that played to our strengths," said Joe Savell, who is joining his brother at Cornell as a freshman rower. "It was a lot more even and we like our chances in that kind of race."
The Savell's crossed first in an exciting race that saw boats trying to catch waves on the way in to carry them past their rivals. They were the first Brigantine crew to win South Jersey's since Tim Fetter and Ed Stinson in 1987.
Atlantic City's Charles Schreiner pulled away down the stretch of the swim for a convincing victory. The 17-year-old rising senior at Egg Harbor Township High School gave A.C. its first swim champion since John Kenney won the last of his five straight South Jersey titles in 2002.
Margate's Zach Vasser, who won last week's Margate Memorials, was second while defending South Jersey champion Dolan Grisbaum placed third. Vasser just graduated from Mainland Regional High School and is headed to Columbia University. Grisbaum, an Ocean City High School grad, is a junior at Boston University.
"Charles and I are very good friends and we train together all the time," Vasser said. "I (won) the Memorials and he (wins) South Jersey. It's only fair."
The singles row provided a thrilling, exciting end to the event. No less than six boats were vying for the lead on the way in. One would catch a wave and rocket to the lead, only to spin out while another rower took over.
Jack Savell, two-time champions Mike McGrath (2016, 2018) of Longport and Chris Spiers (2019, 2022) of Margate, Sea Isle City's Dan Rogers, Atlantic City's Sean Blair and Ocean City's Taylor Smith appeared to grab the momentum at various points.
"It was a real close race," Savell said. "But as soon as I crossed the finish line, I looked down the line and thought I won."