Jay Eckert, 30, of Sarasota, Florida was the Overall Champion at the 2017 Tampa Bay Marathon Swim on Earth Day Saturday, posting a time that ranks as the 6th fastest in the race’s 20-year history.  After opening an early lead, he was able to maintain the advantage all day and eventually made it to the finish line one hour before the rest of the field of competitors.  Eckert represents the Sarasota Sharks swim team, and is Manager of Business Development for United States Masters Swimming.

The Overall Female Champion was Heather Roka, 31, from Ft. Myers, Florida.  She overcame early adversity and cruised to the finish line and finishing in 11 hours, 16 minutes.   A brisk headwind challenged the competitors early in the race, as Roka’s coach, Alexis Price, navigated and cheered from her escort powerboat after being forced from the water due to kayak malfunctions.

Four of the 5 relay teams jockeyed all day for position atop the leader board, ending in a virtual dead heat within minutes of one another.   The Mad Milers relay team finished in 9 hours, 26 minutes, followed closely by Parcells Paddlers, Swim Guzzlers, and Bizzaro World.

Water temperature was 77F/24C, and the strong incoming tide assisted the swimmers as they traveled from the south end to the north end of Tampa Bay.  There was a slight to moderate chop on the water at the 7am start time, as swimmers and crew went directly into a headwind of 8mph.  The winds calmed by mid-day, but the waters became choppy again after 3pm when the westerly sea breeze kicked in as the top competitors neared the finish line.

Official Results
Solo Swimmers
8 hours, 26 minutes – Jay Eckert, 30M, Sarasota, FL, USA
11 hours, 16 minutes – Heather Roka, 31F, Ft. Myers, FL, USA
14 hours, 26 minutes – Dan Fritz, 53M, Chicago, IL, USA
DNF due to sickness – Patty Hermann, 57F, Houston, TX, USA

Relay Teams
9 hours, 26 minutes – Mad Milers Relay
Elizabeth Fry, 58F, Westport, CT
Margaret Gaskill, 59F, Bremerton, WA
James Clifford, 65M, Poolesville, MD
Henry Eckstein, 69M, West Palm Beach, FL
James Bayles, 65M, Newtown, CT

9 hours, 32 minutes – Parcells Paddlers Relay
Marcia Cleveland, 52F, Winnetka, IL
Scott Lautman, 64M, Seattle, WA
Dennis Dressel, 65M, Torrington, CT
John Wilbur, 71M, Venice, FL
John Waanders, 56M, Old Saybrook, CT

9 hours, 41 minutes – Swim Guzzlers Relay
Kevin Curley, 58M, Oviedo, FL
Glenn Baker, 54M, Orlando, FL
David Heffernan, 57M, Orlando, FL
Craig Bartlett, 59M, Oviedo, FL
Peter Gold, 45M, Winter Garden, FL
Tom Welch, 57M, Orlando, FL

9 hours, 42 minutes – Bizarro World Relay
Marcy MacDonald, 53F, Andover, CT
Scott Coleman, 62M, Boca Raton, FL
Gene Sardzinski, 61M, Morristown, NJ
Thomas Casey, 57M, Bridgeport, CT
Dan Robinson, 59M, Seattle, WA

11 hours, 43 minutes – Squid Marks Relay
Dinah Mistilis, 42F, Morresville, NC
Anita Hyde, 34F, Mosman, NSW, Australia

Jay Eckert finished in 8 hours, 26 minutes, one of the fastest times ever for the 24 Mile Tampa Bay Marathon Swim.

Top 10 Performances

1.  7:41 – Chris Derks, 2002 (overall & men’s course record)
2.  7:51 – Penny Palfrey, 2008 (women’s course record)
3.  8:00 – Tom Fristoe, 2002
4.  8:09 – Jose Serra, 2008
5.  8:23 – Chris Derks, 1999
6.  8:26 – Jay Eckert, 2017
7.  8:30 – Chris Derks, 2000
8.  8:49 – Chris Palfrey, 2008
9.  8:59 – Evan Morrison, 2011
10. 8:59 – Samantha Simon, 2008

Since the 24 Mile Tampa Bay Marathon Swim was first staged in 1998, it has drawn competitors from across the United States, from Great Britain, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Australia, Ireland, Japan, Switzerland, Baliwick of Jersey, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Germany, India, Canada, and the Cayman Islands.  The race is one of the world’s longest marathon swims, and is held annually in April, in celebration of Earth Day.

For more information about this epic ultra-marathon swim race, email the Race Director at tampataiko12@gmail.com

Official web site: www.DistanceMatters.com

Courtesy of Ron Collins