By Phillip Whitten
NEW YORK, June 25. EMILY Watts, a 34 year-old Masters swimmer from Millers, Maryland, won the 21st annual Around Manhattan Marathon Swim Sunday in her first attempt. She finished the 28.5 mile swim in 7 hours 46 minutes 10 seconds.
The water temperature was a balmy 68 degrees. At first, conditions in the East River were calm, but by the race's end in the Hudson River, the waters had become quite choppy.
Actually, "marathon" is a misnomer. The physical effort required to complete the Manhattan swim is equivalent to a little more than four marathons — a run of 26 miles, 385 yards.
Fifty swimmers participated in this year's race, down from 78 in 2001, the result of security precautions taken in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11.
Ron Collins, 40, who organized and swam in this April's 24-mile "Tampa Bay Marathon," was the second swimmer to reach the finish line in Battery Park City's South Cove and the top male finisher with a time of 8:00:26.
Two relay teams swam in remembrance of friends who died in the terror attacks. The "Fish Gang," the Asphalt Green relay squad, which competed in memory of swimmers Andrew Fisher and Doug Irgang, was the top relay contingent, finishing in 7:53:16 — almost seven minutes behind Watts. A Holy Cross Alumni team placed second.
Rachel Luch, the youngest competitor at 20, finished in 8:06:48.