LITTLETON, N.C. (AP) — While The Crossing does not officially have a winner, somebody has to finish first in the one-mile swim, and for the third year in a row, a Richmond, Va., teen has taken the honor.
Brett Barden, 17, has been swimming since he was a small kid, his father, Ron Barden, said. The family has a house on Lake Gaston, and a few years ago, Ron Barden said, they heard about The Crossing.
At first Brett, a competitive swimmer since he was five, didn't participate in the event, though his twin brother Reed did, Ron Barden said. But three years ago, Brett decided to take a turn and ended up emerging from the water first.
"This year it wasn't easy," Brett Barden said. "The current coming off the bridge was much harder than last year."
Brett Barden said The Crossing is the only open-water event he swims, and he's pleased to have been able to "win" the event three out of the three years he's entered.
"I knew Brett was up ahead of me," said Lindsey Anderson, 18, also of Richmond, this year's first female out of the water, who knows Brett Barden from competitive swimming. "He always wins. But I wasn't trying to catch him, I was just using him to make sure I was following the right path. I didn't want to end up swimming under the bridge."
This ninth staging of The Crossing, during which participants walk, float or swim from Morningstar Marina to WatersView Restaurant, a distance of one mile, brought about 300 participants, said Kathy Dikeman, one of the event's organizers for the Organization to Support the Arts, Infrastructure and Learning on Lake Gaston — O'Sail.
"This event is always growing," Dikeman said. "It's something families can do and make it a tradition."
Three siblings — South Carolinian Sally Weinrich, Lake Gaston resident Jackie Elliott and Ralph Sayre, of Clearwater, Fla. — are continuing The Crossing tradition started last year by Weinrich and Elliott.
"My goal this year is to beat my sister," Weinrich said. "She left me in the dust last year, and this year we've got our brother with us for the first time, so it's a family thing for us."
Not everyone had that sort of support. First-time participant Lien Raets, 17, of Chapel Hill, who works as a lifeguard at a pool back home, was very nervous before getting into the water.
"(My family) has a home here," Raets said. "We were here on vacation and I got talked into doing this. I've never been part of a swimming race this big or done an open-water swim."
Still, even with the anxiety and with nobody at the start to calm her down or talk to her, Raets said she's eager to return for next year's Crossing, which Dikeman said could be even bigger, with the event's 10th anniversary slated for next summer.
Participants interested in finishing first during the 10th anniversary of The Crossing, however, will have to contend with Barden, who is planning to return, as is Anderson.
"I love to swim," Brett Barden said. "I like the open water and I'm definitely planning to come back next year."
"I did a two-mile open-water swim at Chris Greene Lake (in Virginia)," Anderson said. "That was a cable swim, so it was really boring. This one is a lot more fun."
Information from: Daily Herald, http://www.rrdailyherald.com/