ISLAMORADA, Florida Keys (CBSMiami/FKNB) — More than 180 athletes competed in a 9-mile open-water swim Saturday off the Florida Keys.
Noah Zhang of Jupiter, Fla., emerged as the top individual swimmer at the fourth annual Alligator Lighthouse Swim in the Atlantic Ocean.
Zhang, 17, a high school senior at Oxbridge Academy, completed the swim in 3 hours and 46 minutes.
“This is the craziest race I have ever done,” Zhang said. “When I came around the lighthouse I saw two turtles and a couple of barracudas. I snorkeled the reef at the lighthouse as a kid, so this was a great excuse to come back to the Keys.”
Zhang said his strategy was to get a good start.
“I wanted to get out fast, keep a good pace and stay there,” he said. “The guy behind me (2nd-place finisher Diego De Los Rios of Miami Beach) pushed me, which was good.”
Participants swam to Alligator Reef Lighthouse, around the beacon and returned to the Islamorada shoreline.
Islamorada residents David Jacobson, Tracy Collett, Robert Kelley and Eric Wunderlich won the four-person relay division with a time of 4:09:18. Hollywood, Fla., residents Bennett Rodriguez and Carly Hyman won the two-person division with 3:50:05.
The top female swimmer was Alison Hayden of Kinnelon, New Jersey, with a time of 4:02:38.
The event was staged as a college scholarship fundraiser for Keys students interested in competitive swimming, but also to raise awareness of a need to preserve the 143-year-old Alligator Reef Lighthouse and five other aging lighthouses off the Florida Keys.
The beacons are no longer tools for maritime navigation due to Global Postioning System usage and other modern seamanship tools.
The event’s individual course record of 3:18:03 was set in 2015 by Miami resident Yoelvis Pedreza.
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