Pan American Gold Medalist Alex Kostich and Glenns Falls, NY swimmer Elissa Kline took the top spots for male and female athletes in the 12th Annual St. Croix Coral Reef Swim Race on Sunday morning, Oct. 21, 2007. The five-mile swim is often referred to by locals as the “Buck to Bucc” swim for its course itinerary: participants enter the water on the beach at uninhabited offshore Buck Island, swim through two miles of open sea to the St. Croix coast, continue along the shoreline, and exit the water to run through a palm-lined chute on the main beach of The Buccaneer resort.
Created and organized by Elizabeth A. Armstrong, general manager of the resort who competes in the race each year, the event has grown from a race for a handful of local athletes in 1996 to an international event attracting Olympic athletes. This year, Olympians who participated included Sydney Gold Medalist Misty Hyman, three-time gold medalist and world record holder Amanda Beard, Hall of Famer Rowdy Gaines who won three Gold Medals in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, and Margaret Hoelzer, a world champion and American record holder in the 200m backstroke, who is currently training for Beijing in 2008.
The open water swim race has nine categories to recognize swimmers of all ages, from teen to senior, and relay teams. Many men and women in their 50s, 60s and older participate in the race each year including St. Croix swimmer Ed Staats, 73.
Kostich, 37, has won the race repeatedly and this year set a new course record in the solo swim division with a time of one hour, 38 minutes, and 27 seconds. Elissa Kline, 24, finished as the first solo female in a time of 1:53:18. The first Virgin Islander to finish the race was Junior swimmer Bryson Mays, age 13, in a time of 1:53:19.
The winning team in the relay division was a British Triathlon team training on St. Croix in hopes of an Olympic slot: Alister Brownlee, Will Clark, and Stuart Hayes who finished the race in 1:39:57. The second place team was from St. Croix: Kevin Hensley, Josh Laban, and Peter Verhoff with a time of 1:42:30. The Olympic relay team of Beard, Gaines, and Hoelzer finished third in 1:45:39.
St. Croix’s Laban, 24, a graduate of St. Croix’s Country Day School and the University of Georgia, and has his eye on an Olympic slot. “This is a great place to train,” said Laban, who was preparing for a key qualifier, the swimming Nationals in Atlanta on November 30. “We had very beautiful conditions—no white caps.”
Proceeds from the event benefit The Nature Conservancy, which was instrumental in establishing the East End Marine Park in the waters surrounding St. Croix. The next race is set for October 19, 2008. www.swimrace.com.
Overall Solo Results – Top Ten
1 Alex Kostich, Los Angeles, CA
2 Christian Bayo, San Juan, PR
3 Manuel Sosa, San Juan, PR
4 Jimmy Welborn, Chattanooga, TN
5 Elissa Kline, Glenns Falls, NY
6 Bryson Mays, St. Croix, VI
7 Ed Gendreau, Dover, NH
8 Perry Bishop, Portland, OR
9 Brent Mays, St. Croix, VI
10 Elizabeth Schlicher, Baltimore, MD