JEFFERSON – Swimmers of all ages took to the water Sunday in the annual Lake Hopatcong Open Water Swim Festival. The event took place in the Woodport section of Lake Hopatcong and included a two-mile US Masters swim and the one-mile Tom Wear Memorial Swim.
A couple of fifty-year-olds, Jeff Stuart, 52, from Glastonbury, Conn., and Mark Loftis, 53, from New York City, finished one-two in the two-mile swim with Stuart finishing first, just 15 seconds faster than Loftis. The two paced each other throughout the race.
Priscilla Modrov, 25, from Hoboken, was not far behind the two top men, finishing her first Lake Hopatcong Open Water Swim in a time of 44:03.8. The event was only her fifth open water swim and remarkably, it was her fifth win.
“I am just here to have fun,” said Madrov, a former high school and collegiate swimmer who still trains and swims competitively in the pool. “All my other open water swims have been in the ocean and have been shorter distances,” she said.
For Stuart, the Lake Hopatcong Open Water Swim is “a sacred event for me.”
After being released from prison in 2009, Stuart got back into the water as a way to support his recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol. He has done well in Lake Hopatcong, finishing first or near the top each year.
Lauren English, 24, from Lincoln Park and Craig Travers, 50, from Honeoye Fall, NY were the top female and male winners respectively in the Tom Wear Memorial Swim.
For Paul Kiell, 82, from Far Hills, the one-mile swim wasn’t that difficult.
“The hardest part of the day was getting here from Far Hills,” he said laughing. Kiell, a former collegiate swimmer, swam “five or six” open water swims this year, including the Relay Around Manhattan. “This is relatively easy,” he added.
The event this year raised money for four local non-profit organizations including the Jefferson Township Animal Pound, Southern Tier Police Canine Association, Eleventh Hour Rescue and Father John’s Animal House.
According to event coordinator Bridgette Hobart Janeczko, the four charities will split between $8,000 and $9,000.
“We’re happy for whatever we get,” said Eleventh Hour Rescue volunteer Donna Catapano, who along with two other EHR volunteers shared literature and information with swimmers and spectators. Father John’s Animal House also attended the event. Southern Tier Police Canine Association offered a demonstration by an officer and his canine partner.
Swimmers at the start of the two-mile swim.