St John Beach to Beach Swimmers Fought Big Waves But No Rain

308 Swimmers Registered for the 10th Annual Power Swim
The 10th annual Friends of Virgin Islands National Park (FVINP) Beach to Beach Power Swim went off without a rain drop this past weekend. Noone was concerned that the water wouldn't be warm enough but, rain storms had been in the area and threatened to dampen [pun intended] enthusiasm - but, not so!  The Virgin Islands Daily News reports that Martyna Pospieszalska and Joey Hamilton, both of St. Thomas, were the top women's and men's finishers in the short solo competition in Sunday's Power Swim at Maho Bay.
Hamilton crossed the finish line first in 21 minutes and 47 seconds, followed by Pospieszalska in second place in 23:33. Hunter Baskerville of St. Thomas was the second man in 23:53.
Barbara Crowder of Durham, N.C., claimed the top overall woman's prize and the 3.5-mile swim, finishing in 1 hour, 20 minutes and 20 seconds. Natasha Rusheinski was second in 1:31:55, followed by fellow Tortola resident Hayley Berry in 1:35:55. This was Crowder's fifth time competing in the Beach-to-Beach Power Swim.
"It was a lot more wavy this year, more big swells pushing against us," she said.
Crowder owns a home on St. John and spends about six weeks a year on island, but lives year round in North Carolina, where she trains regularly.
"I've not done any other open-water races; just pool races, like the Masters Nationals. I'm basically a IM and butterfly swimmer," she said, laughing, "But apparently, I'm becoming starting to be a distance freestyler."
This year's registration of 308 people broke records and hopes are that last year's fundraising total of $30,000 will also be broken. The St John Source reports that all proceeds raised from this event will go to protect and preserve the cultural and natural resources of the park. The money will also help fund educational programs such as Summer Eco-Camps and programs to teach local children aged 9 to 17 how to swim. Summer Eco-Camps is held at the University of Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station (VIERS,) on the south side of St. John in Lameshur Bay. The Friends raise scholarship funds for students who would otherwise be unable to partake in these programs.
If you would like to contribute you can do so on-line.
"One-hundred, twenty-eight of them participated on the short course," said organizer Joe Kessler. "About 70 were on the intermediate course; 122 or so on the long course, and another 20 for the relay.
"They come from all over the place," he said. "A little over 40 percent come from the mainland of the U.S.; about 20 swimmers from the BVI, half a dozen from Puerto Rico, 10 from St. Croix and a swimmer as far away from Majorca, Spain. This is our 10th year, and this is a great turn out, so this is a big celebration."
The oldest swimmer for the day was 76-year-old Bryce Rhymer. The multi-discipline athlete rides his bicycle regularly around St. Thomas, and has completed in all but one of the last 10 Beach-to-Beach events. St. John's Isabell Thill was the youngest swimmer at age 6.
From the very start of the race, volunteers made their mark in the 3.5-mile long race. John Foster of Puerto Rico led the charge and saw the swimmers off in King Neptune fashion with the sounding of his conch shell, which echoed through Maho Valley. He later joined the 3.5-mile swimmers on their dash toward the finish line, past all the waiting water craft lining the bay.
Felipe Olivieri of St. John volunteered to kayak along with the swimmers and keep them safe. He had two very good reasons to look out for their safety: his girlfriend Genelle Carter and her mother Nina Carter were both in the Long Solo race.
"My mom decided last year that the Beach to Beach was on her bucket list," Genelle Carter said. "So this year, she and my dad traveled from Virginia so we could complete and the guys could paddle along."
While she has lived on St. John for several years, this was the first year Genelle had participated in the Beach to Beach. But not everyone at the Beach to Beach was from the USVI.
A group proudly sporting blue T-shirts with a white clamshell and the words "The Rhode Island Quahogs" had made their way along the 3.5-mile course to take a third-place finish.
The relay group was made up of Rebecca Summerhays, Kelly McGee and Tad Davies, and listed Pawtucket, R.I., as their home. While they come from the Ocean State, they train in a pool several times per week.
Without lap lines, Davies did get a bit directionally challenged on the last leg of the race and ended up swimming an extra five minutes out of the way until a kayaker directed him back to the proper course.
Even with the challenges of wind, waves and no directional markers, the group said they would definitely be back next year, with Kelly adding "the water is much nicer here."
Upcoming athletic events on St. John include the Carnival Bike Race in June, and the Love City Triathlon in September so there is plenty of time for you to plan your next trip to St John to participate or just join in to root the athletes on to the finish.UPDATE:  Here are the 2013 results just posted by the Friends Virgin Islands Park