Teenagers lead the way in Power Swim

By BILL KISER Daily News Sports Editor

ST. JOHN — Eddie Soltis heard about the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park’s annual Beach to Beach Power Swim last year, and thought it would be another fun race to try some day.

That day came Sunday, and it turned out to be a monumental race for the 15-year-old Soltis, as the Maryland teenager won the long course unassisted title in the 19th Power Swim.

Soltis, of Annapolis, Md., completed the 3.5-mile swim from the start at Maho Bay Beach through Cinnamon and Trunk bays to the finish at Hawksnest Beach in 1 hour, 13 minutes and 22 seconds.

That made Soltis — a student at Rockbridge Academy, a private school in Annapolis, and a member of the Naval Academy Aquatic Club — not only the second straight first timer to win the Power Swim, but the division’s second-youngest winner as well.

That record was set by St. Croix’s Natalia Kuipers, now a rising junior on Bryant University’s swim team, who won the 2016 Power Swim long course title at the age of 13 in 1:19:12.

“I did the St. Croix swim in November and heard about this race … so I decided to do [the Beach to Beach Power Swim] with my family,” Soltis said.

“I’m a distance swimmer, and I like the open water. I live near the water, so I swim in the Severn River a lot. I didn’t have a time in mind, I was just going.”

And go Soltis did, pulling away in the final stretch through Hawksnest Bay to finish nearly 1½ minutes ahead of another teen swimmer, 17-year-old Graham DeVito of Crozet, Va. (1:14:51).

“My friends were always like, ‘you’ve got to come do this,’” said DeVito, who swims with the St. Thomas Swimming Association and the Virginia Gators swim teams. “I never had the availability to get down here and do it. We were finally able to make it work this year, and it was really fun.”

Defending Power Swim long course champion Carlos Lomba, 57, of San Juan, improved on his winning time in 2021 by two minutes (1:15.49). But this year, that was only good for third-best on the long course behind Soltis and DeVito.

“It was hard for me to keep up with them, said Lomba, who was a first-timer himself when he won the 2021 Power Swim. “I can’t complain though. But I lost touch with those kids coming into the last stretch.

“I think I kept a straighter line than they did — they seemed to be jumping all over the place. That was probably because of their unfamiliarity with the course.”

The top female finisher in the long course unassisted division was another first-timer, Olympic gold medalist Ashley Whitney, 42, of Nashville, Tenn., who came in fourth overall in 1:17.40.

“A bunch of my teammates [with the Nashville Aquatic Club] came down last year, and had fun,” said Whitley, who earned gold in the 1996 Atlanta Games as part of the United States’ women’s 800-meter freestyle relay team. “I didn’t want to be left behind.”

All four said the toughest part of the Beach to Beach Power Swim’s long course was swimming through Trunk Bay, where wind and waves made navigation hard and swimming harder.

“It was a nice washing machine effect in there,” Whitley said. “[Her teammates] mentioned it last year. That’s the nice thing about a lot of courses – every year is different, every day is different.”

Said Soltis: “It was pretty choppy over there. The wind and waves made it tough. When you’d try to breath in, the waves would splash on you, and it made it hard to sight [marker buoys].”

Other division winners in the 19th Beach to Beach Power Swim were:

Long course assisted: Anthony Pearsail of St. Thomas was the overall winner in 1:28:27, while Heidi Guth of Honolulu, Hawaii, was the top women’s finisher in 1:30:29.

Intermediate course unassisted: Marina Falcone of St. Petersburg, Fla., who won the overall long course title in 2019, added the intermediate overall title and top female finisher in 44 minutes, 57 seconds, in the 2.5-mile swim from Maho to Trunk Beach. St. Croix’s Kalonji Von Schilling-Royer was the top men’s finisher in 47:34.

Intermediate course assisted: Asya Simons of St. Thomas was the top overall finisher as well as top female finisher in 54:42, while St. Croix’s Jan Tawakol was the top men’s finisher in 56:49.

Short course unassisted: St. Croix’s Scott Hensley was the top overall finisher in 19:33, while St. Thomas’ Diana Bowan was the top female finisher in 25:54 in the one-mile swim from Maho to Cinnamon Beach.

Short course assisted: St. Thomas’ Kelly Johnson and Rex Tulles of Dallas, Texas, tied for top honors in 19:19. Johnson was the top female finisher, and Tulles the top men’s finisher.

More on the Beach To Beach Power Swim here.

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