Meriel Mitsakos (left) and Tristan Marsh reach the finish line ahead of the rest of the pack at the United States Lifesaving Association National Championship in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. earlier this month.

DOWNTOWN — Swimmers with Team Santa Monica took high honors at the Junior Lifeguard National Championships earlier this month in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with three members earning first place in various competitions designed to test one’s endurance.

Team Santa Monica is a nonprofit, parent-run swim team featuring kids from Santa Monica and other communities on the Westside. Members Isabel Casso, Tristan Marsh and Meriel Mitsakos placed first during the competition, which was held Aug. 6 through Aug. 8 and featured swimmers from across the nation.

Casso, 16, placed first in the girl’s AA age group run-swim-run and third in the distance swim and iron guard. Marsh, 13, won the boy’s B age group run-swim–run, iron guard, distance paddle and rescue race. He placed second in the distance swim. Mitsakos, 14, won the girl’s B age group distance swim and rescue race, and finished third in the iron guard and run-swim-run.

The iron guard event consists of a distance swim, followed by a distance run, followed by a distance paddle. In the rescue swim a junior lifeguard swims a “torpedo out to a victim and they swim in together.

“It was a really great experience,” Mitsakos said Monday. “I am really proud… . The whole experience was like an adventure, just going all the way from L.A. to Florida and meeting all these people from all over the country, Texas, New Jersey and New York.

“It was a little scary, but also refreshing at the same time,” she added. “Physically you really have to be in shape because it is demanding, but you have to just say to yourself that you can do it and trust in your training and take it from there.”

Nick DeVito, 13, placed fifth in the boy’s B distance swim and run-swim-run, and  Serafina King, 10, finished 7th in the girl’s C age group run-swim-run. Also attending were Tiana Marsh, 12; Tess King, 12; and Matthew DeVito, 10.

At the California Surf Lifesaving Association’s state championships in Seal Beach July 24, Mitsakos won the distance swim and run-swim-run for her age group, and placed second in the rescue race. Marsh took second in the distance swim, third in the run-swim-run and was part of the winning swim relay team. Casso was sixth in the distance swim and run-swim-run. Her relay team placed second.

Three other Team Santa Monica swimmers finished in top positions at the state championships. Ana Silka placed third in the AA group distance paddle, Collette Gulick placed fourth in the AA distance swim and Jordan Wilimovsky took sixth in the A distance swim.

In the Northwest corner of the country, 16 year old Jonathan Lait competed in both the 100m and 200m breaststroke at the 2009 Junior Nationals held in Federal Way, WA. The event brought together over 1,300 of the top 18 and under swimmers in the country. Following a busy summer which saw him swim in meets for three straight weeks, he managed to place solidly in both of his events.

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