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Pompano Junior Lifeguards fare well at regional event

Posted on 18 July 2019 by LeslieM

By Gary Curreri

Pompano Beach Junior Lifeguard Grace Parnas wins the beach flags event as she tops Lake Worth’s Kiki Padron at the United States Lifeguard Association Southern Regional event at Lake Worth. Photo by Gary Curreri

Grace Parnas had a stellar effort at the recent United States Lifeguard Association Southern Regional event at Lake Worth.

The 14-year-old Pompano Beach resident won six of the nine events she was in and placed second in another for the Pompano Beach Junior Lifeguards in the Girls A Division. Parnas, who will be a sophomore at Calvary Christian Academy in the fall, took first in the run-swim-run, paddleboard race, beach flags, rescue race, iron guard and the swim relay. She got silver in the run relay.

“I’ve been competing for four years and been doing the camp for six years,” Parnas said. “It’s so fun. Most of the people say it is so hard, but I get to see my friends and then compete with them.”

She gets lost in the adrenaline rush. 

“You honestly don’t remember a lot of the race,” Parnas said. “You have the adrenaline rush and you are going as fast as you can because you just want to win.”

“I never expected to be at nationals or regionals,” said Parnas, who has also fared well at the national event.

She won beach flags two years ago and placed third last year in the event and is the two-time defending paddleboard national champion. 

“It is incredible,” she continued. “I never thought I would win nationals. I don’t feel any (outside) pressure. It is more self-put pressure because I want to win a national championship again.”

Teammate Julia Freshour, 13, also of Pompano, turned in a solid performance as well. She won the Girls B Division surf rescue, paddleboard, run-swim-run, rescue relay, and moved up in both the Girls A swim relay and the U19 swim relay. She was second in the iron guard.

“I really love ocean swimming so it is probably that,” said Freshour, who is a Pompano Middle School eighth-grader and has competed since she was 7. “I like to race. The competitions are really important. I would skip anything that day to come to this.”

She also loves the adrenaline rush when she competes.

“I kind of tune everything out, and I get into this zone where I kind of go into autopilot and just go,” she said. “I don’t think about anything. I don’t feel anything. I can just go all out.

It is very important to win.”

Pompano Beach’s Victoria Scarpinito took second in the U19 Girls beach flags event. She’s competed for the past five years.

“I love the team spirit and team enthusiasm. I like the challenge and how you can push yourself,” said Scarpinito, 17, who will be a senior at Cardinal Gibbons in the fall. She is also a member of the school’s dance team and on the Pro-Am competition dance team.

“It is an amazing feeling once you are out there,” she said. “It is not the most important thing to win, but it is a good feeling when you do.”

Summer Schulte took first in the U19 girls Surf race (distance swim), paddleboard and iron guard, while Oliver Nagy was the top boys finisher for the Pompano program as he won three events in the Boys A Division. He won the surf swim, paddleboard and iron guard.

Rich Tammany, who heads up the host Lake Worth Junior Lifeguard program, said the event attracted about 200 junior lifeguards from as far south as Hollywood all the way north to Flagler Beach.

Among the other cities represented were Ft. Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Deerfield Beach, Delray Beach and host Lake Worth.

“We were very excited,” Tammany said. “I have been doing Junior Lifeguards for 23 years and this is only the second time we have had it here. The other time we had it here was 2006. The kids are excited. The weather was good…water was good. It was a great day.”

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Pompano junior guards enjoy success at states, nationals

Posted on 05 September 2018 by LeslieM

By Gary Curreri

The Pompano Beach Junior Lifeguard program once again proved its supremacy on the sand.

The program finished second in the state and then had several standout performers at the 2018 United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) National Championships at Virginia Beach.

The team prepared for the national event by competing in the USLA Regional competition in Flagler Beach and nearly two dozen junior lifeguards made the trip to Virginia, which featured about 400 competitors from around the country.

Pompano claimed nine national championships and also earned a plethora of silver and bronze medals. Among the locals claiming national titles were Isabella Taylor, who successfully defended her Ironguard and Paddleboard national championships and added the Surf Swim Race championship to her resume.

Raphael Santos captured national titles in the Run-Swim-Run and the Surf Swim distance race.

Summer Schulte won a gold medal in the Run-Swim-Run event, while Grace Parnas won gold in the Board Race, and teammate Reese Andres won national championships in the C Division for the Ironguard and the Board race.

At the state competition, Santos, 15, led a 1-2-3 sweep for Pompano in the ocean swim event. He’s competed for the Pompano Beach Junior Lifeguard program for the past four years.

I just started liking it a lot more,” said Santos, a sophomore at Pompano Beach High School. “It has helped me with ocean swimming in general. I swim in the pool, and in the ocean, it is like two different things. When I go to the junior lifeguard training, it is like a whole different environment and it is like better off.”

Santos said he likes to compete but added learning about the ocean is also a nice add on for the summer program.

It is pretty interesting,” said Santos, who finished sixth at state last year in both of his events — 200 IM and 500-free during the high school season. “You can be swimming in a pool, but in the ocean, you can be swimming out and the next thing you know you are drifting past the buoy. You have to know how to swim towards the current a little bit to keep straight swimming. There are no lane lines out here or flags.”

Pompano Beach’s Alex Marquez, 16, was runner-up to Santos in the swim event. He is also a teammate of Santos’ at Pompano Beach High School where he is a junior. He’s been with the Pompano Beach Junior lifeguard program since he was nine. Marquez placed third in Ironguard at Nationals.

I am a swimmer originally, so I like anything with swimming in it,” Marquez said. “This has helped me a lot, especially with discipline. It felt really good to sweep the event. It is nice to know when you are ahead. The top 10 people here are all on the same team, even though we might be on different teams at the swimming pool. It was kind of fun to swim against them. It is bragging rights for sure.”

Trio wins scramble golf event

Joel Englander, Bill O’Brien and Willie Smith took top honors with a 68 after a match of cards to win the three-man scramble for the Pompano Beach Men’s Golf Association at the Pines Course at Pompano Beach Municipal Golf Club.

Finishing second was Chuck Brown, Jim Foster, and Dave Dowling, also with a 68. They shot 36 on the back nine while the winning group carded a 34 for the back nine in the August 28th tournament. George Disch, Lee Hammer and Bart Valerio finished in third with a team total of 69.

Dennis Sejda struck his tee shot within 7-ft., 7 in. on the 15th hole to win Closest to the Pin honors.

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Junior lifeguards compete at state tourney

Posted on 30 July 2015 by LeslieM

sports073015By Gary Curreri

More than 400 junior lifeguards competed in the 5th annual Junior Lifeguard State Championships recently on Ft. Lauderdale Beach.

Pompano Beach led the way with 60 competitors, while Deerfield Beach brought 27 junior lifeguards.

There were three primary age divisions in the state event including A Division (ages-14-17); B Division (ages 12-13); and C Division (ages 9-11) and an introductory Grommets Program (for 7-8 year-olds who are not yet qualified to join the Junior Lifeguard Team).

Pompano Beach’ Shannon Snell, 17, a senior at Cardinal Gibbons High School, is no stranger to the competition and turned in a stellar performance winning the Girls A Division of the beach flags event in addition to the surf swim and the run-swim-run.

Snell, who has been a junior lifeguard for nearly eight years, competed in last year’s World Championships in France last year where she placed 10th in beach flags; 6th in the 100-meter dash and 10th in the paddle.

It was really epic to represent our country,” said Snell, who competed for the Pompano Beach junior lifeguard competition. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Admittedly, there is a lot of pressure being at a world level and in a high performance competition she said, “you need to know what you are doing.”

I am going to remember everyone I competed with and the teamwork,” she added. “Just the part of racing with each other and working together… and making friends for life … We know each other and learn new tricks every year from each other.”

Deerfield Beach’s junior lifeguards was led by Daniel Padron, who won the B Division of the beach flags event, while Pompano Beach also got a strong performance from Summer Schulte, who won the B Division in the paddle, run-swim-run and surf swim. There were seven events – beach flags, paddle, run relay, run-swim-run, paddle relay, surf swim, and the ironguard.

Local winners in the beach flags were Shannon Snell (Pompano Beach, Girls A Division); Daniel Padron (Deerfield Beach, Boys B Division); Christian Quinones (Pompano Beach, Boys C Division).

Winners in the paddle were Andre Bacic (Deerfield Beach, Boys A Division); Nicholas Calice (Pompano Beach, Boys B Division); Summer Schulte (Pompano Beach, B Girls Division); Jake Schulte (Pompano Beach, Boys C Division); Tamara Backers (Deerfield Beach, Girls C Division); Reef Coote (Pompano Beach, Boys D Division) and Victoria Vanacore (Pompano Beach, Girls D Division).

Winners in the Run-Swim- Run competition were Race Wilhoit (Pompano Beach, Boys A Division); Shannon Snell (Pompano Beach, Girls A Division); Christian Henderson (Pompano Beach, Boys B Division); Summer Schulte (Pompano Beach, Girls B Division); Jake Schulte (Pompano Beach, Boys C Division).

Winners in the Surf Swim competition included Shannon Snell (Pompano Beach, Girls A Division); Christian Henderson (Pompano Beach, Boys B Division); Summer Schulte (Pompano Beach, Girls B Division) and Samantha Escobar (Pompano Beach, Girls D Division).

The state championships were a precursor to the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) regional competition recently in Daytona Beach. The national USLA competition will also be held in Daytona Beach on August 5.

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Locals compete in Junior Lifeguard state finals

Posted on 18 August 2011 by LeslieM

Pompano Beach’s Gwen Bencie wins the state championship in the Girls C Division Paddleboard event in the inaugural Florida State Junior Lifeguard Championships in Ft. Lauderdale recently. Photo by Gary Curreri

By Gary Curreri

Pompano Beach’s Gwen Bencie enjoys learning about the ocean.

The 10-year-old also enjoys competing and putting the two together while participating in the inaugural Florida State Junior Lifeguard Championships in Lauderdale recently.

“It’s mostly hard,” said Bencie, who competed for the Ft. Lauderdale Junior Lifeguard program the past two years. She won the Girls C Division Paddleboard event at the state competition.

“It teaches you how to save lives and rescue people. What you would really do if you were a lifeguard. I want to be a lifeguard when I am older. I think the competition is really important because I want to win and we can get points for the team.”

Bencie said her favorite event was the paddleboard, although she competed in all of the events.

“It’s fun,” Bencie added. “Sometimes, I go surfing and I like working out.”

Ft. Lauderdale scored 1,052 points to take the state title, while Pompano Beach was second with 668. Deerfield Beach was fourth with 289 points.

Mike Brown, 37, who has headed up the Deerfield Beach Junior Lifeguard program for the past 14 years, had 14 of his 70 junior guards competing in the event. Brown said two of his current city lifeguards came from the junior program.

“The benefits are you are teaching them water safety and teaching them how to save someone’s life,” Brown said. “You teach them how to identify dangerous water conditions and also how to use surf crafts like a paddleboard and how to catch waves.”

Deerfield Junior Lifeguard James Rivera, 14, a Boca High 9th grader, has been competing for five years and said it is fun.

“Sometimes winning is important,” said Rivera, who also swims for the Deerfield Beach Dolphins Swim Team. “It is pretty serious, but it is also fun, too, at the same time. It is a good experience.”

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Paddleboard event draws more than 100

Posted on 21 July 2011 by LeslieM

By Gary Curreri 

Rebekah Escuage asks where the finish is for the standup paddleboard event at recent Chick-fil-A Ocean Series on Pompano Beach. Photo by Gary Curreri

Pompano Beach Piranhas head swim coach Jesse Vassallo is hoping to build a strong swim program in the city.

If a recent fundraising event at the beach is any indication, he could be well on his way. A total of 135 competitors recently participated in a Chick-fil-A Ocean Series on Pompano Beach.

The Chick-fil-A Ocean Series was presented by the Pompano Piranhas and featured a one-mile ocean swim, a 500-meter kids swim and a half-mile stand-up paddleboard race. The top three finishers in each event won Cow trophies and medals. There were also goodie bags and door prizes provided, as well as a Chick-fil-A breakfast.

“I am really excited about being here,” said Vassallo, who took over head coaching duties a month ago after spending the previous two years at Ft. Lauderdale Aquatics. He called the Chick-fil-A event “a tremendous success.”

Vassallo, who turns 50 next month, hopes to continue to grow the swim team in Pompano Beach, which is in just its second year as a United States Swim program. It had previously enjoyed success in the South Florida Recreational Swim League.

“We started a month ago with 45 swimmers and we now have 66,” Vassallo said. “We are trying to run the most professional swim team in the area …We have recreational levels for kids who just want to lose weight or have fun. We also want to be very competitive. You can’t have one without the other.”

“I have my goals,” Vassallo added. “The Pompano Piranhas is a small team that came from the rec league maybe three years ago so it is actually a new team in the U.S. Swimming environment. First, I want this to be a solid team so we have to grow in numbers.”

Julia Schulte, 14, the first female finisher in the standup paddleboard event at the competition who finished fourth overall, likes the direction the Piranhas are taking. She has been a member of the swim program for the past six years.

“It is such a black-and-white difference (with the competition),” said Schulte, who is also a junior lifeguard with Pompano. “With (the recreation swim league), I would win the heats like they were nothing and, here, I get my butt kicked and come in dead last. It is just a whole other world. It is like you go into the Twilight Zone and you feel like you are in a whole different world.”

Piranhas’ teammate Rebekah Escuage, 17, also from Pompano Beach, agreed that the competition is now stiffer.

“Rec (swimming) was a lot of fun, but this is a higher level of competition,” Escuage said. “It is nice to see how it is going to be by competing at such a high level, even with people who are going to the Olympics. It is really different.”

“That was a beginner type thing, but when we switched here it was like a whole different world of competition and people who can beat you,” Escuage added. “Training got a lot harder, but it was more worth it and it was something to strive for.”

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