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Kids learn to save lives ...

Annual competition at Castaic Lake teaches children water safety techniques

Posted: July 9, 2008 1:29 a.m.
Updated: September 9, 2008 5:02 a.m.

A group of girls, ages ranging from 9-to-11 years old, run along the beach of Castaic Lake participating in the Run Swim Run event during the Junior Lifeguard competition.

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"Saving" fellow competitors with yellow rescue cans, swimming up to 300 yards and running around in the sun-splashed sand, the annual Junior Lifeguard Competition took place Tuesday at Castaic Lake.

Between 300 and 350 future lifesavers between ages nine and 17 competed for ribbons and an overall team trophy. The hardware was won by Castaic over junior lifeguards from three other lakes - Santa Fe in Irwindale, Bonelli in San Dimas and Hansendam in Pacoima.

There were nine events, including a swim relay, distance run, distance swim, paddle relay, a rescue race, and a capture-the-flag style beach flag event.

"It's a very physical, intensive program," Junior Lifeguard Director Manny Barrios said. "We've expanded, our Web site has exploded. We've had more than 1,400 hits between Feb. 2 and now. We've had 95 new applicants this year alone."

The top 10 individuals in each age group and the top six relay teams received ribbons.

The competition was the cherry on top of a four-week ordeal in which the youngsters participated in wakeboarding, swimming, training and running activities. Several went for CPR, first-aid and lifeguard certifications. On Tuesday, four square miles of the lakeshore were closed off to hold the competition.

Barrios suggested gas prices and other factors may have contributed to the fact that 170 participants from Castaic Lake took part this year, versus 287 last year.

Grant Richman, a 15-year-old from Chatsworth who is preparing for his sophomore year at Granada Hills High School this fall, was one of them. Richman, in his seventh year in the Castaic Junior Lifeguard program, won among boys in his 14-15-year-old age group.

"The hardest part is definitely running," Richman said. "Swimming is easy, but running is tough. The most fun was being with people. Everyone's really cool."

Denise Tarello was one of several parents who proudly watched as their sons or daughters competed.
Ashley, her 12-year-old daughter, won in her age group.

"They come home exhausted, but they have no complaints," Denise Tarello said. "After four weeks, they're in excellent shape. They get a lot of exercise."

Another junior lifeguard was first-year competitor Mariah Cuahutle, an 11-year-old from Castaic. She won the 9-11 long run event.

"They really push you to do stuff," Cuahutle said. "I swim really well."

Los Angeles resident Joseph Briones, 13, came from Hansendam Lake.

"It's an easier experience," Briones said. "There were 50 swimmers, not 240. We received more individual attention."

With the exception of Steven Robles, from Santa Fe Lake, in the 9-11 boys age division, every single individual winner came from Castaic.

Zooey Arroyo of the A-level group won in the girls overall competition. Spencer Roney and Sierra Bates of the AA 16-17 age group also of Castaic won. Kevin Lewallyn and Denise Tarello won among the 12-13's, while Madeline Broz was the 9-11 girls winner.


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