About 200 junior lifeguards paddled, ran and, of course, swam Monday in a sand and surfside tournament at Jones Beach that tested the skills they've learned as Long Island lifesavers.
Despite what was at stake -- a chance to go on to regional and national competitions and bragging rights -- a wave of esprit de corps flowed from contestant to contestant, organizers said.
"They're just ecstatic," said Jay Liegey, a lifeguard at Field 4 in Jones Beach and an organizer of the Junior Lifeguard Competition. The grueling, annual extravaganza has in its 14-year history become a rite of summer to lifeguards. "When you're an athlete, you like to compete. You're showing your prowess and how good you are."
Among the events were a beach run, paddleboard, distance swim, beach flags, rescue race and an ocean swim relay.
Five winners emerged in each category in four age groups. They are eligible to compete in a regional tournament in Sea Girt, N.J., next week, Liegey said, and a national event in Cape May, N.J., after that.
"It's a great competition and we are so pleased to host it," said George Gorman, a state parks spokesman.