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ISLAMORADA (CBSMiami/FKNB) – A Colorado man garnered top overall honors Saturday at an open water swim in the Florida Keys designed to raise awareness of the need to preserve six aging lighthouses off the subtropical island chain.

Boulder’s Yoelvis Pedraza completed the 9-mile Swim for Alligator Lighthouse Saturday in 3 hours, 18 minutes and 3 seconds, besting his 2014 victory time by almost 17 minutes.

“I like to come to this swim, it’s such a long swim and it’s only once a year,” said Pedraza, who recently moved to Boulder from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. ” What ‘makes’ the swim is to get to the lighthouse.

In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Yoelvis Pedreza plows through the Atlantic Ocean as he competes in the Swim for Alligator Lighthouse open water competition Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, off Islamorada, Fla., in the Florida Keys. Pedreza won the men's division and turned in the best time of all 195 entrants, completing the 9-mile swim in 3 hours, 35 minutes and 3 seconds. He his victory last year by almost 17 minutes. The event is being staged to create awareness of the need to preserve Alligator Lighthouse and five other aging beacons off the Florida Keys that no longer serve as primary navigation aids for maritime traffic. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY (Bob Care/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO)

In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Yoelvis Pedreza plows through the Atlantic Ocean as he competes in the Swim for Alligator Lighthouse open water competition Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, off Islamorada, Fla., in the Florida Keys. Pedreza won the men’s division and turned in the best time of all 195 entrants, completing the 9-mile swim in 3 hours, 35 minutes and 3 seconds. He his victory last year by almost 17 minutes. The event is being staged to create awareness of the need to preserve Alligator Lighthouse and five other aging beacons off the Florida Keys that no longer serve as primary navigation aids for maritime traffic. (Bob Care/Florida Keys News Bureau)

“Right underneath it, is just a gigantic diversity of life,” he said. “You see reef, you see fish, you see everything.”

Alison Hayden of Kinnelon, N.J., won the women’s title at 4:31:07.

“I would meditate in the water, exhaling and counting the buoys one by one,” Hayden said, explaining her strategy. “There wasn’t one time where I picked my head up and looked at the lighthouse. I kind just kept going.”

Belleair, Fla., residents Cyle Sage and Mandy Zipf won the two-person relay division with a time of 4:34:53.

Swimmers Emilienne Allen, Janice Haramis, Kimberly Nordheim and Michala Nowak, all of Hypoluxo, Fla., won the four-person class in 3:52:54.

The event attracted 200 entrants.

In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, a portion of the field of about 200 registered entrants begins the Swim for Alligator Lighthouse open water contest Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, off Islamorada, Fla. The 9-mile challenge on the Atlantic Ocean side of the Florida Keys island chain is being staged to create awareness of the need to preserve six aging lighthouses off the Keys that no longer serve as primary navigation aids for maritime traffic. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau)

In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, a portion of the field of about 200 registered entrants begins the Swim for Alligator Lighthouse open water contest Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, off Islamorada, Fla. The 9-mile challenge on the Atlantic Ocean side of the Florida Keys island chain is being staged to create awareness of the need to preserve six aging lighthouses off the Keys that no longer serve as primary navigation aids for maritime traffic. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau)

Because of Global Positioning System (GPS), the 142-year-old Alligator Lighthouse and five other lighthouses off the Keys are no longer primary tools for maritime navigation.

On the Net

Swim for Alligator Lighthouse: http://www.swimalligatorlight.com.

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.)

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