Tuesday, May 22, 2018
News Roundup

Swimmers cross Tampa Bay to raise money for families of wounded SEALs

The sun had been in the sky for only an hour Sunday when 150 men and women dove into Tampa Bay for a 3.1-mile swim from Gandy Beach to Picnic Island.

Now in its fourth year, the Tampa Bay Frogman Swim has evolved from a casual happening to an organized event so popular with local athletes that it has a waiting list. The swim raises money for the families of wounded Navy SEALs. Organizers said that this year's event brought in about $200,000.

In 2010, a group of friends sent an email asking other swimmers to join them in an open-water swim to raise money for a Navy SEAL officer who had been wounded in Afghanistan. Undeterred by frigid water, 37 people showed up. The next year, 67. Then 120.

Many participants are former members of the military, but over the years the Frogman Swim has drawn a range of swimmers from Olympic athletes to high school students. The fastest ones make it across the bay in under an hour.

A former Navy deep-sea diver, Chris Quilty of St. Petersburg has raced in Frogman four times. For experienced swimmers, the challenge lies less in the mileage than in fighting the current and cold water, he said. The first year, the current pushed some swimmers a quarter of a mile off-course.

On Sunday, the water was 68 degrees and unusually welcoming compared with years past, when the water temperature has dipped below 50.

A first-time Frogman swimmer, wetsuit-clad Amy King, 43, of Dunedin admitted she was nervous.

"My dad was a Big Ten football player and he always said if you're not nervous, you're not ready," she said.

At 8:20 a.m., at the sound of a horn, the first wave of swimmers began racing through the water, followed five minutes later by the second wave. A kayaker accompanies each swimmer in case anyone should need rescuing.

Olympic hopeful Becca Mann posted the best time of the day, completing the swim faster than some less-fit people can jog that distance — 56 minutes, 48 seconds. Mann is 15 years old.

"It was a really cool and interesting swim," she said. "It got really choppy in the middle (of the bay). And I couldn't see the buoys. So I had no idea where I was going."

Still, that apparently provided no difficulty for Mann, who swims with the Clearwater Aquatic Team and lives in Belleair Beach.

Swimmers said conditions were great on Sunday, though choppy waters and a current provided a bigger challenge than near-perfect weather suggested.

Thomas O'Connor, 18, of Oldsmar finished second in the men's division, reaching Picnic Island just a short distance behind winner Caleb Hudak, who is 16. Hudak, of Seminole, posted a time of 56 minutes, 50 seconds.

O'Connor said he wants to be a Navy SEAL. He started swimming seriously just three years ago after deciding he didn't have the skill for landlubber sports like basketball and soccer. He decided on swimming.

"I took to it like a duck in water," he said. "It just seemed natural."

As to his desire of becoming an elite SEAL, O'Connor said, "I just want to be on the best team in the world and be part of something bigger than myself."

Times staff writer William R. Levesque contributed to this report. Anna M. Phillips can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779.

Comments
Tampa police officers to wear pins noting military service

Tampa police officers to wear pins noting military service

TAMPA — When Tampa police Capt. Calvin Johnson responds to calls, his time in the Army rarely comes up. When it does, people ask him what war he was in, his length of service and where he was stationed.The conversation, Johnson said, changes how peop...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Here’s why there are so many coyotes and why they are spreading so fast

Here’s why there are so many coyotes and why they are spreading so fast

For eons, coyotes roamed what is now the western United States, with its wide-open plains. Then came European settlers, who cut down forests for farms and ranches in a steady east-west march. Along the way, they killed large predators such as pumas a...
Updated: 21 minutes ago
Florida’s python hunt bags 1,000th snake

Florida’s python hunt bags 1,000th snake

HOMESTEAD — Florida is marking a milestone in its attempt to control an infestation of Burmese pythons in the Everglades. The state has been paying a select group of 25 hunters to catch and kill the invasive snakes on state lands in South Florida si...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Pasco delays take-back of SunWest Park

Pasco delays take-back of SunWest Park

NEW PORT RICHEY – The publicly owned SunWest Park is still in private hands.At least for now.On Tuesday, Pasco County commissioners delayed voting on a plan to take over operations of the publicly owned lakefront park near Aripeka that would have all...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A fake ‘Zombie Outbreak’ alert alarms Lake Worth residents

A fake ‘Zombie Outbreak’ alert alarms Lake Worth residents

Folks around the Lake Worth area were warned of a zombie outbreak early Sunday morning.The alert, issued at 1:41 a.m., was meant to inform residents about a power outage but had been changed to reference the popular AMC television series The Walking ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
FedEx driver, 22, dies in crash on Interstate 4

FedEx driver, 22, dies in crash on Interstate 4

TAMPA — A 22-year-old FedEx driver died Tuesday after a tire blew out on his freight truck on Interstate 4 east of Tampa, sending it into a collision path with a Chevrolet Volt, state troopers said. Two teen girls in the Volt survived the 10:21 a.m. ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Jason Pierre-Paul, Brent Grimes absent as Bucs open OTA practices

Jason Pierre-Paul, Brent Grimes absent as Bucs open OTA practices

The Bucs started another chapter of their offseason Tuesday with the first OTA (organized team activity) practice at One Buc Place, with veterans Jason Pierre-Paul and Brent Grimes as the only healthy players absent from what is officially a voluntar...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Game 7 odds and ends as you wait for Lightning-Capitals on Wednesday

Game 7 odds and ends as you wait for Lightning-Capitals on Wednesday

For the 33rd time in NHL history, a Stanley Cup semifinal series is headed to a Game 7, where the home teams are 21-11.The Lightning and Capitals meet Wednesday night at Amalie Arena in a win-or-go home game to decide who plays Vegas in the Stanley C...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Intensity, preparation key to Calvary Christian LHP Nolan Hudi’s success

Intensity, preparation key to Calvary Christian LHP Nolan Hudi’s success

Nolan Hudi has made 26 starts for Calvary Christian and he has won 22 of them. His other four starts were no decisions.The Warriors have won 59 straight games entering Wednesday's Class 4A state semifinal against Jacksonville Trinity Christian. No ga...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Despite Walt Disney's wishes, you can now buy alcohol at every Magic Kingdom restaurant

Despite Walt Disney's wishes, you can now buy alcohol at every Magic Kingdom restaurant

Well, you did it millennials. As of this month, every sit-down restaurant in the Magic Kingdom now serves alcohol.
Updated: 2 hours ago