An army of young and talented swimmers, along with a few aged veterans, put on a show for thousands of visitors who packed Atlantic Avenue Beach in Amagansett on Saturday as near perfect beach conditions brought the summer season to a close over Labor Day weekend.
The annual Red Devil Swim to benefit the East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue squad was filled with a familiar lineup of East Hampton Hurricanes, local lifeguards and summer residents who have long made their names known in the East End swimming circuit.
Rodin McKenna, a 14-year-old swimming star from New York City who got his start with the Hurricanes at the East Hampton YMCA RECenter, was the first to emerge from the calm ocean waters while swimming the 1-mile, which was the longest of three distances offered in the race.
Curran O’Donnell, 14, a soon-to-be freshman at East Hampton High School, was first to finish the half-mile, while Isaiah Robins, 14, of Montauk was the first finisher in the quarter-mile.
One by one, the swimmers who emerged from the water near the front of the pack on Saturday had stories to tell about summer training and what awaits them in the competitive season ahead.
“We’re a really close team, we’re like family,” said Sophia Swanson, a 16-year-old-rising senior who will help lead the Hurricanes as well as the girls varsity swim team at East Hampton High School this fall. Swanson finished second in the 1-mile, but is more equipped at swimming fast over short distances. She currently holds her school’s record in the 200-yard freestyle and has her sights set on a Division I collegiate swimming career.
O’Donnell is just getting started with his high school career, but is already a veteran of the pool at the YMCA. He specializes in the breast and backstrokes.
“My goal this year is to break some team records, and next year make it to states,” he said on the beach following Saturday’s race.
“We have a lot of young kids around. We’re really happy about that,” said Tom Cohill, the Hurricanes head coach who was one of a handful of adults to swim the 1-mile on Saturday.
Cohill and his assistant coaches will begin tryouts for the new Hurricanes season next week, on September 9 and 10, with a long season to follow culminating with the state championships next spring.
“We’re in the pool all summer,” Cohill said of his young charges. “We have a big, solid group from 8- to 12- or 13-year-olds, but we also have a great group of seniors who will be finishing up this year.”
Jim Arnold, who was the race director on Saturday and serves as the assistant chief for the ocean rescue squad, said the funds raised go straight to the bottom line of operating the volunteer squad, which assists lifeguards in both East Hampton and Southampton towns with ocean rescues.
“We just had another seven members join,” he said. “Our squad is getting bigger and we’re doing more work. We’re fortunate that a lot of young people are coming up through the ranks.”