SANDPOINT - You had to go all the way to the back of a long line of swimmers to get to the essence of the 18th annual Long Bridge Swim on Saturday in Sandpoint.
More than 800 swimmers, a record number that included past, current and future college swimmers among its wide-ranging ranks, slowly poured into the lake for the 1.76 mile open water swim.
Standing at the end of the line, literally, was Sandpoint swimmer Janet Dhaenens. While masses of swimmers were already more than a half mile into the journey alongside the iconic bridge, the 51-year-old Dhaenens was just entering the water.
"Last time I was third to last," recalled Dhaenens, as the woman next to her joked that now she could pass everybody. "I go fast enough to not get pulled out."
Therein lies the beauty of the popular swim, which features a mix of elite and novice, young and old, all there for a fun time. Adding to the atmosphere is the procession of bikers, runners, walkers and dogs hovering above the swimmers on the Long Bridge. Among many cheers and shouts of encouragement was a proud little girl yelling "yeah, daddy."
This year offered a little extra drama, as two-time defending champion Bryce Kananowicz, who blew the field away with a time of 36:06 last year, was not among the field. The 16-year-old Coeur d'Alene swimming prodigy is competing at the nationals, leaving the door open for a new winner.
Hitting land first on Saturday was 16-year-old Marcus Tonsmann of Bainbridge Island, Wash., with a time of 39:19.33, nearly a minute ahead of University of Puget Sound swimmer Derek Frenzel. It was Tonsmann's second Long Bridge Swim, having finished 18th two years ago, and the start presented an unusual challenge.
"At the beginning of the race, my cap fell off, and I know the rules say you have to have a cap," said Tonsmann, who plans to swim in college down the road. "I just stuffed it in my suit and kept going."
Hayden's 16-year-old Gus Koch finished third, one spot ahead of last year's fourth-place finish. Colbert's 18-year-old Emri Moore was the top female finisher for the second straight year, clocking a 41:34 to finish sixth overall. Moore, who plans to swim at Boise State next year, said the waves were the toughest part of the event.
Coeur d'Alene swimmer Samantha Hammerly, who finished 10th overall, echoed a similar sentiment.
"The waves were massive out there and I was just getting hammered," described the aptly named Hammerly. "It was a good time, but definitely a headwind."
There were 881 registered swimmers, breaking the previous record. The homespun, relaxed nature of the event continues to draw people from all over the U.S. and Canada. And the post-race huckleberry ice cream cones and other tasty treats certainly don't hurt anything.
Once again the race served as a fundraiser for the swim lessons initiative started three years ago by Long Bridge Swim assistant race director Jim Zuberbuhler, with the hope that more kids will learn to swim. The Sandpoint Sharks swim team raised $1,453 this year, pushing the program's total to more than $40,000 and helping hundreds of local youth learn to swim.
More than 90 kayakers helped keep the swimmers safe. Boy Scout Troop No. 308 from Sandpoint and Troop No. 140 from Sagle helped transport, sort and deliver more than 800 bags, and hundreds of other volunteers made the event run as smoothly as ever.
"I love that the community pulls together," said race director Eric Ridgway. "Everyone is having a good time."
Top 25 finishers
1, Marcus Tonsmann, Bainbridge Island, M 13-18, 39:19.33.
2, Derek Frenzel, Moscow, M 19-24, 40:10.26.
3, Gus Koch, Hayden, M 13-18, 40:47.12.
4, Donald Moravec, Spokane, M 50-54, 40:50.46.
5, Keilan Freeman, Stanford, M 19-24, 40:54.93.
6, Emri Moore, Colbert, F 13-18, 41:34.45.
7, Jennifer Todd, Coventry, Warwicks, F 13-18, 41:39.09.
8, Rob Davis, Calgary, Alberta, M 50-54, 41:56.88.
9, Larry Krauser, Spokane, M 55-59, 42:01.61.
10, Samantha Hammerly, Cd'A, F 19-24, 42:02.65.
11, Edward Davis, Pullman, M 45-49, 42:05.23.
12, Trent Shino, Spokane, M 25-29, 42:12.45.
13, Chris Sowers, Cheney, M 13-18, 42:18.34.
14, Annie Warner, Nine Mile Falls, F 30-34, 42:26.89.
15, Bob Schlemmer, Seattle, M 50-54, 42:29.71.
16, Susanne Simpson, Spokane, F 50-54, 42:30.97.
17, Kari Budd, Spokane, F 19-24, 42:31.95.
18, Craig Scrivner, Ellensburg, M 45-49, 42:33.02.
19, Michael Zamolo, San Diego, M 19-24, 43:03.66.
20, Evan Eck, Helena, M 25-29, 43:04.57.
21, James Adams, Wenatchee, M 35-39, 43:04.64.
22, Tim Burnham, Cashmere, M 50-54, 43:11.43.
23, Aaron Vander Leek, Sherwood Park, M 13-18, 43:50.56.
24, Lawrence Kough, Coronado, M 45-49, 43:55.86.
25, Joe Delaney, San Rafael, M 50-54, 44:01.84.