JEFFERSON – Swimmers of all ages and ability participated in the sixth annual Lake Hopatcong Open Water Swim Festival Sunday, September 7, with proceeds from the event benefiting animal rescue organizations and police K9 teams.
More than 130 swimmers participated, with a handful of swimmers swimming in all three adult races, the one-mile Masters Open, the two-mile open division and the one-mile Tom Wear Memorial swim. A 100-yard open water swim was offered to kids 12 and under.
The event took place just off the docks at Flash Marina in the north end of Lake Hopatcong. The one-mile triangular course was laid out south toward Liffy Island.
For Jen Bauman from Parsippany, swimming in three different races (for a total of four miles) was no big deal, having participated in many 10K swim races previously.
Bauman, who coaches Roxbury’s Horseshoe Lake swim team, said she began open water swimming many years ago, when her “crazy swim friends talked her into” trying the sport.
Veteran open water swimmer Jeff Stuart from Connecticut managed to swim in all four races, finishing first in two of the three adult races and escorting the half dozen eight- and nine-year-olds in the kids division. Stuart came in third in the main event, the two-mile open division, behind Justin Viotto from Morristown, 14 and first-place finisher Ryan Waters from Basking Ridge, 15. Stuart’s good sportsmanship, and knowledge of the course layout, allowed the teenagers to finish one-two. The boys were slightly ahead of Stuart when they turned at the wrong buoy. Stuart saw their mistake and yelled out to them, getting them back on course.
“This was so much longer than I thought—felt like three miles,” said Waters of his first-ever open water lake swim. Both Viotto and Waters have participated in ocean open water swimming events, he said.
Kellyanne Tomasula from Vernon, 26, won the women’s division in the two-mile open division, finishing just minutes behind the top three male finishers.
“Technically I’m a sprinter,” said Tomasula who is a high school and Masters division all-American swimmer. “This was my longest open water swim.”
Sunday’s event attracted people from all over the country, including a mother and son team, Deb and Gator Pritchard from Durham, NC.
“We are trying to do an open swim in every state,” said Deb who swam the one-mile Masters Open. The duo is trying to swim five races a year and began their quest earlier this year when they swam their first open water swim in their home state on Gator’s thirteenth birthday. The Lake Hopatcong swim is their third race for the year said Deb. Gator swam the one-mile Tom Wear Memorial swim.
Two of the organizations that benefit from the event’s proceeds were on hand to meet visitors and participants.
Volunteers from Eleventh Hour Rescue were on hand to offer information and get the word out about the organization. Jillian, a two-year-old terrier mix (available for adoption) spent the day greeting visitors as well.
Officer J.L. Vanek and canine partner Tarah from the Endicott , NY police department were on hand representing the Southern Tier Police Canine Association, which uses the money raised at the open swim event to purchase police dogs for police departments. One such dog, Arek, who is partnered with Sgt. Damon Bee from the Washington Twp. (Warren County) Police Department, was a main attraction at Sunday’s event, wowing the crowd with his intelligence and strength.
“This is a super day,” said event coordinator Bridgette Hobart-Janeczko, herself a veteran open water swimmer who will attempt to swim the English Channel later this month. “I believe this will be our best year charity-wise. I think we will raise more money this year than in previous years,” she said.