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LI lifeguards compete in tournament

Participants in the Jones Beach Junior Lifeguard Tournament.

Participants in the Jones Beach Junior Lifeguard Tournament. (July 11, 2011) Credit: Ed Betz

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."

The contestants, aged 9 to 17, belong to five Island-based junior lifeguard programs. They are based at Smith Point, Jones Beach, Long Beach, East Hampton and Atlantic Beach, Liegey said.

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.

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