Coming off of a very close second-place finish at the USA Swimming Open Water Swimming National Championships last month, Deni Cullom of the Mission Viejo Nadadores won the featured 3-mile Gatorman race at the 78th annual La Jolla Rough Water Swim.
17-year-old Cullom beat 5-time 38-year-old champion Alex Kostich of Los Angeles after swimming even with him for the first part of the race. "[Alex] had me going the entire way. I was worried until the last two steps of the race," said Cullom pictured on the bottom left in the famed Mission Viejo Nadadores distance training program below.
But the camaraderie between the competitors shined brightly after the tough race. "I'm really happy," said the smiling Kostich who finished in 58:32. "I'm glad there are these whippersnappers moving up and enjoying the sport."
But the masters got the upper hand over the teenagers in the women's race. 31-year-old Dawn Heckman, who trains with Kostich in Pasadena, won 1:01:05 over Olympic 10K swimmer Chloe Sutton, who trains with Cullom.
"I had no idea about my lead," said Heckman, a former 9-time All-American from the University of Florida. "I was just swimming to land."
As were the other 567 swimmers in the Gatorman...and 2,200 other swimmers in the shorter races in the beautiful La Jolla Cove just north of San Diejo.
Upper photo shows start of race and lower photo shows Dawn Heckman from the University of Florida swim team website.