'Knights' of the pier

There are probably few days at the Balboa Pier that feel as family-oriented as the annual Monster Mile race.

The parking lot is jam-packed with cars and SUVs, the sand is lined with enough adults holding cameras that you would think they were shooting a surfing competition, and the pier is loaded with cheering parents.

They’re all there for the same reason: to cheer on their and others’ kids as they go about completing a monster of a task, running a mile and swimming a mile up the beach.

The Monster Mile is a finale of sorts for Newport Beach’s Junior Lifeguard program for kids 9 to 15. The kids have two weeks left of class, in which they learn the basics of safety, swimming and what it takes to be a lifeguard. Thursday’s event was themed “Knights of the Round Table” and was one of the last competitions for the kids this summer.

“This is definitely one of the goals at the beginning of the year,” said Lifeguard Capt. Jon Mitchell. “It’s a tough one. Running and swimming a mile is not easy.”

No it’s not, at least for most people.

Allie McCormick, 14, won her fourth “Monster Mile” for the girls’ side Thursday, clocking in a time just over 30 minutes.

Like last year, Allie said, the swimming was actually the easiest part because she struggles with running in the sand.

The top finisher for the boys, 14-year-old Lucky Callender, said he knew he’d finish near the top, but was still nervous heading around the Balboa Pier.

“It’s scary just putting your head down and swimming around the pier, not being able to see anything,” he said.

It’s all in the kids’ heads, though. Lifeguards are idling out in the water on boards, monitoring the kids as they swim by.

“In the program’s 26 years, we’ve always had one motto from day one: Safety first, safety last, and treat every guard special,” Mitchell said.

For more photos, click here.


 Division A – 14- to 15-year-olds

Lucky Callender

Allie McCormick

 Division B – 12- to 13-year-olds

Drew Yasko

Jules Pouch

 Division C – 10- to 11-year-olds

Luke Wyatt

Natalie Wild

 Division D – 9-year-olds

Cobi White

Bailey Weber

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