Friend has been a lifeguard for seven years and began competing in the event in 2008, the last time it was at Greenbrier State Park.
“Everybody pretty much likes to compete, and it’s something we all get excited for,” she said. “We also get to meet the other parks, which is pretty cool.”
There were five events in the competition, including a 300-yard swim, a rescue race, an obstacle course, a relay and beach flags.
Competitor William McGarity, 21, of Hagerstown, also is a lifeguard at Greenbrier State Park and said the events are all related to skills lifeguards are expected to have when on the job.
“Each course is set up as a different scenario you would face as a lifeguard,” he said. “Each event is designed to be representative of a task that is necessary for our job.”
The 300-yard swim was the first event, and it began with competitors racing around a floating device in the lake at the park then returning to the starting point.
The beach flags were scheduled to follow the swim, in which competitors had to race to the beach and locate and obtain a single flag, with one less flag than number of competitors placed throughout the beach.
Teams of two were to compete in the rescue race, with one person symbolizing a swimmer in distress and the other person using a rescue tube to pull the “swimmer” back to shore.
The relay was called the iron-guard relay and consisted of three parts — swimming, running and back to swimming. Lifeguards could compete as individuals or on teams.
Finally, the obstacle course, called the Ultimate Challenge Obstacle Course, included a sprint; high stepping through a row of tires; swimming about 50 feet to obtain a tire; returning to shore with it; carrying dragging or rolling the tire across the beach to the grass; crawling beneath a large net; then sprinting to the finish line.
Greenbrier State Park Beach Ranger Zachary Norris was involved in planning and organizing the events, and said the competition allows lifeguards across the state to come together.
“It gives all the guards a chance to show their skills as a lifeguard,” he said. “It’s a chance for all of them to get together and meet one another, and compete against each other.”
The first-, second- and third-place winners in every event won $30, $20 and $10 respectively. They also won 10 points, five points and two points, respectively, for their state parks. At the end, the state park with the most points wins the first-place title and trophy.
David Rogers, chief training officer with the Maryland Park Service, was a judge in the event and said it gives lifeguards a chance to show off skills they don’t always have a chance to display while on the job.
“A lot of times it’s three hours of boredom sitting on a chair with maybe five minutes of action,” he said.
“We train them and then hope they never have to use their training.”
The competition was open to all lifeguards from state parks who wanted to participate and was sponsored by Friends of Maryland State Parks Inc., Norris said. It cost about $2,500 and began at 1 p.m. Monday.
Individual and team winners in the Maryland Park Service Lifeguard Competition:
Seth Hinder, Gunpowder Falls State Park (men’s winner)
Allison Hoalson, Gunpowder Falls State Park (women’s winner)
Rescue race (two-person teams)
Hinder and Chris Adel, Gunpowder Falls State Park
Iron-guard relay (three-person teams)
Brandon Long, Hinder and Zach Crowtler, Gunpowder Falls State Park
Ultimate Challenge Obstacle Course
Michael Diambrosio, Assateague State Park (men’s winner)
Erica Friend, Greenbrier State Park (women’s winner)
Joshua Edwards, Cunningham Falls State Park (men’s winner)
Kristen Reiner, New Germany State Park (women’s winner)