Extra Points: Tepper, McGrath lead Longport at Dutch Hoffman’s
WILDWOOD - The first time Longport swimmer Joey Tepper lost a lifeguard race was at the Dutch Hoffman Memorial event in 2018.
That was also the last time he lost a race.
Tepper, an Egg Harbor Township High School graduate and current standout at the University of Tennessee, extended his unbeaten streak in decisive fashion Friday, handing Avalon rookie Dolan Grisbaum his first defeat of the summer before a large, boisterous crowd at Lincoln Avenue Beach.
"I was a little nervous before the race because I know Dolan is a very good swimmer," Tepper said. "I'm just glad I was able to pull it out."
Tepper's victory was all the more impressive since he had won the paddleboard event less than 15 minutes earlier.
He no sooner crossed the finish line of that race before he was back in the water.
If he was tired, he didn't show it. He opened a slight lead at the turnaround buoy, then widened the gap coming in en route to a comfortable win.
"I was definitely tired after the paddleboard, so I had to take a different approach to the swim," Tepper said. "Normally, I dial it up to 11 from start to finish in the swim, but I knew the race was going to be won on the way in because of the offshore wind. I focused on being super efficient in the beginning and then I put the hammer down."
Tepper kept a straight course on the way back to the beach, then hopped on a wave and rode it to shore before sprinting out of the water and across the finish line.
It was a stark difference to his first appearance at the Dutch Hoffman's three years ago, when he was so far off course that he wound up two blocks away from the finish line.
"Yeah, I wound up at the next pier," Tepper said with a laugh.
Grisbaum, a 2021 Ocean City High School graduate who is headed to Boston University, had won both the Cape May County Championships and Kerr Memorials and was thought to be a threat to Tepper.
He stayed close to him for the first portion of the race, but couldn't keep pace with his rival once they reached the halfway point.
"I can honestly say I swam as fast as I could," Grisbaum said. "We were side by side for a while and that was different because I'm not used to having someone near me. In those first two races, I basically was swimming by myself. It sucks to get my first loss, but Joey was the better swimmer today. I have two more chances (at the Margate Memorials and South Jersey Championships)."
Tepper and rower Mike McGrath were part of a terrific performance by Longport, which won four of the five events to easily win the team title Friday.
Like Tepper, McGrath also won two events. He teamed with Sean Duffey to open the championships with a victory in the doubles row, then closed it with a win in the singles row.
"It's a great team win," McGrath said. "Joey winning those two events back-to-back was huge for us, then I just did what I do. I'm our closer and being that the (singles row) is the last race, I gave everything I had to give."