Randy Angel

LA County-Southern lifeguards retain Taplin Medley title

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The LA County-Southern squad, which included four rookies, celebrate the team’s fourth consecutive Taplin Bell championship. Photo by Ray Vidal

By Randy Angel

Entering Saturday night’s competition for the Judge Irving Taplin Medley Relay at Hermosa Beach, dory boat rower Tom Seth was apprehensive about his LA County-Southern team’s chances of capturing its fourth straight championship.

“We didn’t look as good on paper as in recent years, which really fired up the LA Central team,” said the Manhattan Beach resident. “This year’s win was really fun because we had so many new people on the team.”

LA County-Southern held off LA County-Central and LA County-Northern to retain the title. Seth credits swimmers Kevin Fink, Ryan Bullock, Will Abele and Wyatt Kircher for giving the team an early lead.

“I was so impressed with rookies Will Abele and Wyatt Kircher who held their own against Olympic swimmers Azad Al-Barazi and Dave Walters of the Central team,” Seth exclaimed. “I’ve been training with young prospects so I am in the best shape that I’ve been in years.”

It is customary for members of the winning team to ring the perpetual award – the Taplin Bell – the number of times they have won the championship. The names of the winners are engraved on a brass plaque listing past winners the Taplin Bell.

Seth, who rowed with longtime teammate Dave Cartlidge in a new dory purchased by Seth’s wife Kristi as a sponsorship for her real estate company, rang the bell for the 18th time, one behind teammate and record-holder Mel Solberg of Torrance. Both agree that the tryouts to make the team are more stressful than the actual competition.

“Ringing the bell never gets old,” said Solberg, who rowed with Jeff Lombardo. “Every year I wonder if we’ll win but just making the team is tough. Experience plays a big part in the competition and with four new members on the team, I didn’t think we’d win as big as we did. We held a 10-second lead when boards started.” The  dorymen follow the paddlers, who follow the swimmers.

Ringing the bell for the first time were Abele, Kircher and paddlers Matty Gallas and Jake Miller.

Other members of the LA County-Southern team were swimmers Kevin Fink, Ryan Bullock, paddlers Pat Jacobson, Jack Bark and dory crews Mike Wurzel and Tyler Morgan, Mike O’Donnell and Jeff Hart, Mel Solberg and Jeff Lombardo.

Action on Saturday night also included the Junior Lifeguard Taplin Relay and Men’s and Women’s Beach Flags competition.

Zuma captured the Girls Junior Taplin title, besting Manhattan and El Segundo while Will Rogers won the boys championship, holding off El Segundo and Manhattan.

Kelly Smyth, of Cal State Pt. Magu, won the Women’s Beach Flags competition overtaking LA County’s Tiana Pugliese and Corinne Hart.

Winning his fourth consecutive Men’s Beach Flags title was Pat Jacobson, who edged LA County teammates Jeff Dahlen and Kevin Doria for the victory.

Hermosa Beach also hosted the LA County Lifeguard Championships on Friday night, highlighted by the Bud Stevenson Intracrew Medley Relay.

Hermosa emerged victorious with strong performances by runners Sam Waters and Cade Bruno, swimmers Ryan Makuta, Scott Smith, Davey Thomas and Ivan Rodriguez, paddlers Jack Bark, Jake Miller, Jamie Jacobson and Quincy Lee, surf skier Danny Ching and dory crew duos of Kyle Atkins/Scott Moore, Dave Cartlidge/Brando Gerardo, Jesse Simon/Craig Douglas and Tom Seth/Danielle Wong.

Manhattan placed second ahead of Dockweiler, who won the 6-Lifeguard Run ahead of Manhattan and Santa Monica.

Hermosa also won the 6-Lifeguard Rescue Board competition over Venice and Manhattan. Santa Monica took top honors in the 4-Lifeguard Shallow Water Sprint defeating Hermosa and Dockweiler.

For complete results, visit surffestival.org.

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