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33rd Long Beach Biathlon brings community together

Children run 1 mile and swim 150 yards

Children run 1 mile and swim 150 yards in the kids race of the 33rd annual Long Beach Biathlon. (July 29, 2012) Credit: Alexi Knock

Seven-year-old Jack Schiffl took a pair of goggles off his forehead and handed them to his dad after he ran a mile and swam 150 yards.

The Massapequa father and son cheered each other on Sunday morning during the 33rd annual Long Beach Biathlon.

“It’s the best feeling that we get to do this as a family,” his father, Mark Schiffl, said. “I’d much rather watch him than run myself.”

Dozens of children and adults turned out for the annual event. For adults, the event began with a 3-mile run and ended with a 300-yard swim. For the kids, it was a 1-mile run and 150-yard swim -- and every child received a medal.

“It’s a great local event and I love all the community camaraderie,” said Karen Sacco, 61, of Long Beach who has run 12 marathons and several triathlons.

Runners paid $20 to register and all the money goes to the Long Beach Junior Lifeguard program, which has 240 participants and teaches children about water safety.

“This is the cheapest race you’re ever going to find for a biathlon because we have probably 50 people working it from the City of Long Beach and most of the lifeguards,” said Bill Toumey, Long Beach lifeguard captain and director of the race. “If you go to any other race where you have to get wet, you’re going to pay $50.”

He said the event raised more than $1,000.

Francesca Gillian’s son Sean, 12, participated in the kids’ race and is a member of the junior lifeguards program.

“Growing up in Long Beach, it’s great for him to be able to learn about all these things like riptides and wind currents,” she said.

Everybody who participated in the children’s race was considered a winner, but the winner of the adult race was Bradley Smith, 32, of East Meadow, who finished in 24 minutes and 18 seconds.

“I’ve been doing this race for 10 years and I’ve never won so this is great,” said Smith, a lifeguard at Jones Beach. “There’s a close relationship between the lifeguards and Jones Beach and Long Beach so I enjoy participating.”

The first female to cross the finish line was Katie McGrath, 27, of Oakdale. This was McGrath’s fourth Long Beach Biathlon and first win in the race.

“I just can’t wait until next year when my daughter is able to do the kid’s race,” said McGrath, a lifeguard at Tobay Beach.

Most of the participants agreed that Sunday’s race was less about the competition and more about the solidarity of Long Beach residents and their children.

“We’re not interested in making money,” Toumey said. “Mostly it’s a local race. It’s a community thing.”

Above: Children run one mile and swim 150 yards in the kids race of the 33rd annual Long Beach Biathlon. (July 29, 2012)

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