More than 500 swimmers finish 25th-annual Long Bridge Swim

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  • (Photo by KYLE CAJERO) Sierra Zuberbuhler (right) and her father Jim (left) finish the Long Bridge Swim on Aug. 3. At 9 years old, Sierra was the youngest swimmer to complete the 1.76-mile course.

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    (Photo by KYLE CAJERO) Charles “Chuck” Milton, flanked on the left by his son Charles Jr., celebrates after becoming the oldest Long Bridge Swim finisher on Aug. 3. Milton, 90, finished the 1.76-mile swim in 1:42:40.

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    (Photo by KYLE CAJERO) Sandpoint High School alumna and current Washington State University swimmer Payton Bokowy (‘18) runs ashore at the end of the Long Bridge Swim on Aug. 3.

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    (Photo by KYLE CAJERO) Swimmers try to gain separation at the start of the Long Bridge Swim near Sagle on Aug. 3. Over 500 participants made the 1.76-mile trek across Lake Pend Oreille.

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    (Photo by KYLE CAJERO) Sandpoint High School swimmers Hayden Norling (left) and Caleb Norling (right) hype themselves up at the start line of the Long Bridge Swim on Aug. 3.

  • (Photo by KYLE CAJERO) Sierra Zuberbuhler (right) and her father Jim (left) finish the Long Bridge Swim on Aug. 3. At 9 years old, Sierra was the youngest swimmer to complete the 1.76-mile course.

  • 1

    (Photo by KYLE CAJERO) Charles “Chuck” Milton, flanked on the left by his son Charles Jr., celebrates after becoming the oldest Long Bridge Swim finisher on Aug. 3. Milton, 90, finished the 1.76-mile swim in 1:42:40.

  • 2

    (Photo by KYLE CAJERO) Sandpoint High School alumna and current Washington State University swimmer Payton Bokowy (‘18) runs ashore at the end of the Long Bridge Swim on Aug. 3.

  • 3

    (Photo by KYLE CAJERO) Swimmers try to gain separation at the start of the Long Bridge Swim near Sagle on Aug. 3. Over 500 participants made the 1.76-mile trek across Lake Pend Oreille.

  • 4

    (Photo by KYLE CAJERO) Sandpoint High School swimmers Hayden Norling (left) and Caleb Norling (right) hype themselves up at the start line of the Long Bridge Swim on Aug. 3.

Situated between Highway 95 and a noisy railroad bridge, Dog Beach doesn’t tend to get as much traffic as its neighbors. Only accessible by walking or cycling, the beach is an undeveloped, sparsely visited patch of sand where driftwood often outnumbers its two- (or four)-legged visitors.

But Dog Beach was more crowded than usual on Saturday, as it was the finish line to the 25th annual Long Bridge Swim.

Under clear skies and the August sun, 511 swimmers trudged ashore after their strenuous, 1.76-mile journeys. Some swimmers jogged ashore with mouths agape. Some ripped off swim caps and goggles, grinning from ear-to-ear. Others trudged through the knee-deep water, wavering from right to left as they tried regaining their land legs after enduring over half an hour in the water.

The finishers’ lack of coordination might be forgivable, especially considering they completed nearly two miles of weaving around posts and other swimmers while battling slight, yet noticeable tides.

The race had finishers of all ages, backgrounds and fitness levels, ranging from 9-year-old Sierra Zuberbuhler, to 90-year-old Chuck Milton, to even Division I swimmer and local Sandpoint High School swimming legend Payton Bokowy, who was the fastest female finisher.

While 16-year-old Canadian Patrick McCloy placed first overall with a time of 34:00, his female counterpart was a more familiar face. A 2018 Sandpoint High School grad, multi-time state champion and a current swimmer at Washington State University, Bokowy was the ninth finisher overall with a time of 41:06.

A sprint freestyler by trade, Bokowy found the 1.76-mile swim had a set of challenges different than anything she experiences while competing for the Cougars.

“This race was hard, but in a different sense,” Bokowy said. “The Long Bridge Swim was difficult for me because I was almost sprinting for 41 minutes straight. I never do that in practice.”

Bokowy wasn’t alone throughout the race. The rising college sophomore had several women in her wake, all of whom pushed her throughout the race. As she made her way across Lake Pend Oreille, Bokowy made smaller goals for herself; in order to help the distance seem more manageable, she threw in surges between specific landmarks until she reached Dog Beach.

Splitting up the 1.76-mile stretch into smaller intervals was necessary. Out on the lake, distances can be difficult to gauge — even on a clear summer day.

Zuberbuhler felt disoriented out on the water. She knew she had to keep pushing herself even when it felt like she wasn’t making progress.

“Before I got to the twelfth piling, I looked behind me and thought ‘oh no, I’ve only passed that much?’” Zuberbuhler said, recalling the obstacles she had to overcome in the home stretch. “And I [said] ‘Okay, I’m going to keep swimming.’ And then after a little bit, I got really queasy. I kept swimming and swimming, and I told myself, ‘don’t give up now.’”

Swimming alongside her father Jim, Sierra finished with a time of 1:16:01.

Chuck Milton, 90, also found that swimming alongside the dozen pilings approaching Dog Beach was the most difficult portion of the race. By that point, fatigue and cramping made kicking difficult, even as the finish was in sight.

“I had some cramps for the posts and I was afraid they were going to get worse,” Milton said. “So I was dragging my legs instead of kicking them. I didn’t feel exhausted at all aside from the psychological side of it. I could’ve swam back if I felt like it. I didn’t want to, but I could have if my life depended on it.”

When Milton came out of the water, his son Charles was there to help lead him to the finish line as the crowd cheered him onward.

Bokowy said the Long Bridge Swim’s encouraging atmosphere was one of the event’s best traits.

“It was so fun being down on the shore with everyone and catching up with people, because basically the entire swim community runs the swim,” Bokowy recalled. “It was really fun watching the events too. I had some friends who swam it, so I missed getting my awards to watch them finish and cheer them on.”

While all three swimmers haven’t definitively committed to doing the swim next year, all three didn’t rule it out.

“It was such a cool feeling,” Bokowy said. “I wasn’t expecting anything of the race, but I was talking to [race founder] Eric Ridgeway after I finished, and he said I might be the first Sandpoint native to win it. It was kind of cute. He said, ‘Come back and visit next year so you can win it again.’”

Sign-ups are already open for the 2020 Long Bridge Swim, which is slated for Aug. 1, 2020.

2019 Long Bridge Swim

Lake Pend Oreille, 1.76 miles

Top 10 overall times ­— 1, Patrick McCloy, 34:00. 2, Michel Heijnen, 34:21. 3, Tristan Whiting, 36:54. 4, Adam Mayer, 37:44. 5, Caleb Norling, 38:20. 6, Hayden Norling, 39:10. 7, Rob Davis, 39:23. 8, Hayden Leavitt, 39:28. 9, Payton Bokowy, 41:06. 10, Amanda Meredith-Dunlop, 41:26.

Female 9 and under — 1, Sierra Zuberbuhler, 1:16:01. 2, S. Taylor, 1:50:55

Female 10-14 — 1, Hannah Fuller, 44:53. 2, Ayiana Prevost, 47:34. 3, Anika Sabharwal, 48:04

Female 15-19 — 1, Payton Bokowy, 41:06. 2, Paige Hopper, 44:31. 3, Mikayla Schoening, 48:03

Female 20-24 — 1, Mary Everett, 43:57. 2, Mia Goodwin, 44:50. 3, Chelsey Halvorson, 51:59

Female 25-29 — 1, Megan Foran, 41:52. 2, Emily Renzini, 44:50. 3, Jade Morton, 47:11

Female 30-34 — 1, Caitlin Adams, 48:44. 2, Richelle Hanna, 49:37. 3, Teresa Hunt, 52:56

Female 35-39 — 1, Amanda Meredith-Dunlop, 41:26. 2, Kelsey McCarthy, 41:32. 3, Rebecca Dussault, 49:33

Female 40-44 — 1, Katie Sulpizio, 49:57. 2, Kathleen Olson, 50:55. 3, Danielle Demmons, 52:53

Female 45-49 — 1, Lisa Harvey, 44:05. 2, Jennifer Polello, 46:54. 3, Sally Ellingsen, 49:23

Female 50-54 — 1, Rebecca Martin, 44:38. 2, Marlayna McNeil, 47:25. 3, Sandra Carry, 57:31

Female 55-59 — 1, Myla Houlihan, 43:06. 2, Lynn Gross, 45:54. 3, Suzanne Cuda, 46:09

Female 60-64 — 1, Sharon McNeil, 53:54. 2, Carolyn Lisle, 59:27. 3, Joanne Braun, 1:00:25

Female 65-69 — 1, Elin Zander, 51:09. 2, Lori Clarke, 58:33. 3, Laura Alcorn, 58:52

Female 70-74 — 1, Susan Hales, 1:04:59. 2, Diana Leake, 1:08:47. 3, Cheryl Place, 1:12:37

Male 10-14 — 1, Caleb Norling, 38:20. 2, Benjamin Linford, 42:46. 3, Gabe Lester, 46:26

Male 15-19 — 1, Patrick McCloy, 34:00. 2, Tristan Whiting, 36:54. 3, Hayden Norling, 39:10

Male 20-24 — 1, John Salvemini, 53:28. 2, Ryan Hagmann, 1:03:17. 3, Preston Johnson, 1:07:08

Male 25-29 — 1, Adam Mayer, 37:44. 2, Aidan Chudleigh, 47:32. 3, Kevin McNeil, 51:17

Male 30-34 — 1, Michel Heijnen, 34:21. 2, Matthew Kim, 44:11. 3, David Ebel, 49:09

Male 35-39 — 1, Joshua King, 41:34. 2, Cameron Kaiser, 41:53. 3, Carlos Glines, 45:42

Male 40-44 — 1, Kevin Boercker, 47:29. 2, Marcos Donolo, 49:15. 3, Erik Olson, 49:34

Male 45-49 — 1, Bradley Williams, 47:51. 2, Kevin Garrett, 47:54. 3, Robert Scoggins, 47:59

Male 50-54 — 1, Todd Cory, 45:52. 2, Jeffrey Michaelson, 46:51. 3, Craig Henson, 47:08

Male 55-59 — 1, Steve Harder, 42:15. 2, Jeff Geist, 42:49. 3, Greg Paul, 46:03

Male 60-64 — 1, Rob Davis, 39:23. 2, Holger Caban, 43:08. 3, Tim Burnham, 44:18

Male 65-69 — 1, Robert Morrison, 46:06. 2, Howard Burns, 47:56. 3, John Phillips, 53:08

Male 70-74 — 1, Doug Meigs, 1:10:02. 2, Tom O’Reilly, 1:11:52. 3, Alex Schmidt, 1:17:37

Male 75-79 ­— 1, Jim Fry, 50:40. 2, Don Henry, 54:40. 3, Lee Peterson, 55:50

Male 80 and over ­— 1, Charles Milton, 1:31:06. 2, Bill Wilson, 1:35:07

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