Swimmers hit Compo to make a Point ... to Point

Sunday morning at Compo Beach, the air was thick and heavy. Any exertion was a challenge. But that did not deter a crowd of more than 150 swimmers from taking the plunge for the 34th annual Point to Point swim sponsored by the Westport Weston Family Y.

The event starts near the cannons at Compo, and participants swim around buoys, ending with a sprint across the sand to the finish line, covering a distance of one mile. Among adults, the race is staggered by age group, then there is a Kids Swim. All registered swimmers received an official t-shirt and mugs were awarded to the top three men's and women's swimmers in each of 15 age groups.

"The race was founded by an aquatics director named Bob Knoebbel," said Scott Smith, communications director for the Family Y. "This supports our annual fundraising campaign and is in line with our mission of healthy living, youth development and social responsibility. We're fortunate to have more sponsorship this year than in past years. It's a great venue, great tradition and great cause."

Among participants, there were veterans with memories of earlier swims.

"The last time I did this was in 1999," said Maury Wind of Westport. "Life interrupted. I'm extremely excited to be back, and a little nervous. I will finish upright and with dignity."

Ann Louise Onton of Woodbridge said she first swam the race in 1995. "I've done it every year except two. I have a vascular leg ulcer and am not really supposed to get my leg wet, but I'm very committed to participating in this race, for the challenge and the cause. I'm a competition junkie and also it's a great opportunity to catch up with old friends."

Beating Onton's track record was Bernie FitzGerald Jr. of Port Washington, N.Y. "This is my 19th year participating," he said. "My first time was 1993, when I had a hip replacement. The Y encouraged me to participate as a physical and mental therapy. I use the race as a measure of my rehabilitation and mark my progress."

On the opposite end of the age spectrum, Becky McCain, a teen from Easton and a Family Y Water Rat, said, "I kind of just want to finish. I hope I do well."

Twenty-year-old Anne Millahn was in that same category in terms of her hopes, and had a couple fellow au pair supporters -- Jacqueline Kaltenmorgen, 21, from Germany, and Alheli Mandujano, 26, from Mexico -- spurring her on.

"Anne practiced hard for this race," said Kaltenmorgen. "at the Y and here at Compo Beach. She was confident she would do well."

Among adults in the first-wave 30 to 49 age category, Gregory Sargent, 45, of Fairfield, finished first with a time of 17:52. Among women in the same group, Kristin Gary, 44, of New York City, finished in 18:42.

"It's a beautiful day, conditions are perfect, there are no jellyfish and there's no chop," Gary said. "It was a gorgeous race."