2nd Annual American Mile 1-Mile Ocean Race Held to Benefit Twin Towers Orphan Fund

DANA POINT, Calif, September 17. THE 2nd annual American Mile 1-mile Ocean Race was held on Sunday, September 14 at Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point, Calif.

Sixty-three swimmers from Southern California, San Diego and Arizona competed on a beautiful stretch of beach directly below the Ritz Carlton Hotel and adjacent to one of Southern California’s best surfing breaks.

As with last year’s exciting finish, this year's edition offered much the same situation but with a different cast of characters. Swimming the better part of the race within four seconds of each other, Diane Graner Gallas (El Segundo Swim Club), John Becker (Rose Bowl), and Eric Erenstoft (SCAQ) battled right to the surf line. Thirty-nine year-olds Gallas and Becker edged slightly ahead after catching a wave in and Becker stood up first for the dash to the finish as the crowd cheered.

Gallas, however, had a bit more left in her and ran past Becker at the last second to take the win in a strong 19:40, improving on her third place finish last year. Becker was second in 19:41 and Erenstoft third only four seconds back in 19:44.

The battle for fourth was another good one with Jim Bergen touching out local boy, Victor (Tory) Dober (20:00 to 20:02).

Forty-five year-old Rick Phillips was 6th in 20:12; 40-year old, Sara Steinhoffer from San Diego was the second woman, 9th overall at 20:25 and Bergen’s sister, Mary Donlevy (El Segundo, 13th) out-sprinted UC Irvine swimmer, Valerie Nellen (14th) for 3rd woman overall and tops in the women’s 30-34 age group.

The youngest swimmer was Richard Yang who competed in his first race ever after training for only two weeks. At the other end of the age spectrum was legendary local coach, Ernie Polte, 76, who finished 46th to win his age group in 29:33.

With local businesses donating gift certificates (varying from $5 to $50) and merchandise for the various age group winners, the American Mile continues to offer the most valuable and widest range of awards of the 25 or so open water races contested in Southern California each summer.

Sponsors included Hennessey’s Taverns, Renaissance Café, Luciana’s, VINE (San Clemente), Beach House Restaurant, Hobie Sports, Girl In The Curl, Killer Dana, Tudor & Spunky’s Deli, Taco Surf, Trader Joe’s, Pick Up Stix, Stuft Pizza, and Starbucks.

The race's biggest contributor was local swimmer, Jim Fitzpatrick, who donated 26 swim bags and towels valued at $200.

Bert & Trish Bergen will continue to run this event to benefit the Twin Towers Orphan Fund for young victims of the September 11 tragedy. Their continued goal is to secure donations from merchants and individuals to reward the swimmers. The majority of the entry fees will be sent directly to the Fund while a smaller portion pays for the commemorative race hat or shirt. Should anyone have questions or be interested in volunteering, swimming, cheering or donating money, awards, or merchandise, please contact the race organizers at Bergenluau@cox.net.

Complete results can be found at SPMA.net. Information about the Fund can be found at TTOF.org.

Top Five Finishers:

1. Diane Gallas, 38, (Manhattan Beach) El Segundo Masters 19:40
2. Sara Steinhoffer, 40 (San Diego) San Diego Swim Masters 20:25
3. Mary Donlevy, 33 (Hermosa Beach) El Segundo Masters 21:13
4. Valerie Nellen, 33 (Huntington Beach)UC Irvine Masters 21:16
5. Rebecca Pontius (Los Angeles) UCLA Masters 22:41

Men Team Time
1. John Becker, 39 (Pasadena) Rose Bowl Masters 19:41
2. Eric Erenstoft, 34 (Los Angeles) So. Cal. Aquatic Masters 19:44
3. Jim Bergen, 35 (R. Santa Margarita) Unattached 20:00
4. Victor Dober, 29 (Monarch Beach) UC Irvine Masters 20:02
5. Rick Phillips, 45 (San Marino) So. Cal. Aquatic Masters 20:12

Special thanks go out to the team of volunteers who came out early and stayed late to ensure a smoothly run and enjoyable race. UCI coach Lucy Johnson, Tom Trapp, swimmers Valerie Nellen, Patrick Keenan, Scott Zornig, Craig Taylor, Kevin Broerman and Tory Dober were invaluable with set-up, check-in and race results.

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