BRIGHTWATERS—The 20th annual Maggie Fischer Memorial Great South Bay Cross Bay Swim was held on Friday, July 19. Over 120 swimmers entered the water from Fire Island, near the lighthouse, and swam across the bay (6.2 miles) to Gilbert Park in Brightwaters. Kayakers followed all the swimmers for support and safety.
Event chair Bob Fischer called this year’s race “probably the most successful” yet, adding that a record number of swimmers participated. “Everyone finished safely and there were just good times all around,” he added.
Local emergency officials were on hand to help, but none were needed. Fischer mentioned that the temperatures this past weekend were brutal, but said the participants are “well accustomed” to the heat.
The winner of the event was C.J. Arena from Amityville with a time of 1:48:29. Arena, 20, has come in first place every year since 2017.
The first woman to finish was Meghan Slattery from Bayport, with a time of 2:02:34.
Slattery, 21, who first participated in the race back in 2016, said this year’s conditions were the “smoothest” she has seen yet.
“I am happy with how the race went. I had an awesome kayaker as a guide and the course markings were really helpful,” Slattery said, adding that with only a few waves and clear skies, it was a “great crossing.”
Slattery graduated from St. Anthony’s High School in 2016, and is about to begin her senior year at Princeton University, where she trains with the university’s swimming and diving team. This summer, she has been in Washington, D.C., where she’s training at a local pool with other teammates in the area.
In high school, Slattery was part of the St. Anthony’s swim team. “It was great to reunite with other teammates who came home for the race,” she said, adding that the Cross Bay Swim is an “incredible event with a great history, great community, and great cause. It was certainly the highlight of my summer.”
Slattery was also the first woman to finish the race in 2017, while Megan Donnelly, from Sayville, was the first woman to finish last year.
The majority of participants were Long Island residents, but some swimmers came from out of state, such as Diane McManus from Pennsylvania, Mary Dempsey from Florida, Steve Poppe from North Carolina and Martin Rosenthal from Vermont.
This year’s honoree, Ed Mooney, president of the Fire Island Ferries, was recognized for everything he and his family have done for the event over the years.
Mooney, a New Jersey native, came to Bay Shore after high school and began working for the ferry company, where he quickly got his captain’s license. He became president of the company in 1971.
The first Cross Bay Swim dates back to the early 1900s, but records are only accurate from 1950 onwards, according to the group’s website. The event was held each year until 1964. It resumed in 1968 and continued until 1973 before taking a 26-year hiatus.
In 1999, the event was renamed in honor of Maggie Fischer, a St. Anthony’s High School senior who was killed in a car crash just days before she was scheduled to compete in the swim. Fischer had been instrumental in its revival. Funds raised go to a St. Anthony’s High School scholarship in Fischer’s name as well as Hospice Care Network Children’s Bereavement Fund.