Dozens compete in inaugural ‘Swim Around Lido Key’
By Katy Bergen via Herald Tribune .com
LIDO KEY – A world-ranked masters swimmer battled a 16-year-old high school student Sunday to become the first champion of the new “Swim Around Lido Key” race, a 7-mile loop around this scenic barrier island.
When Ricardo Valdivia, of Gulliver Swim Club in Miami, rounded the final jetty and swam toward the finish line, beachgoers and spectators on the sand at North Lido cheered for the 50-year-old winner of a race hosted by local swimmers.
Fitzhugh Rawls, 16, took second in the race, finishing two minutes behind Valdivia with a time of 2:29.37. Former collegiate distance swimmer Heather Roka, 28, was the first overall female.
“The conditions today were perfect,” said Roka, who swims in Fort Myers. “The sun was out and the current was helping you most of the way. Probably the most challenging part was that final push through the channel — you were so close to the end but you felt like you’d never get there.”
Roka finished the course — which took swimmers from North Lido Beach through New Pass and around the island through the south inlet — with a time of 2:50.23. About 100 swimmers participated in the Swim Around Lido Key, organized by co-directors David Miner, a coach for the Sarasota Y Shark Masters Swim Team, and Steve Butler, the race director behind the Siesta Key Triathlon and other local races.
“It’s a brand-new event for Sarasota,” Miner said. “We have 16 states, and representatives from Canada and Puerto Rico.”
Those who swam the 7 miles solo were accompanied Sunday by a kayak team, who could give the swimmer food and nutrition as long as he or she didn’t touch the boat. There were 30 additional relay entries, where two swimmers alternated between kayaking and swimming.
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