NEARLY 450 SWIMMERS COMPETE IN SWIM TO ICONIC ALLIGATOR LIGHTHOUSE IN ISLAMORADA, FLORIDA

Swimmers and their supporting kayakers go around Alligator Lighthouse. DAVID GROSS/Contributed

Nearly 450 participants from around the United States competed in Saturday’s Swim for Alligator Lighthouse, an 8-mile open-water challenge off the Florida Keys.

Tampa resident Connor Signorin, 30, emerged from the Atlantic Ocean as the top individual swimmer for the second consecutive year. The former University of Florida swimmer, who won All-American honors five times, completed the race in 3 hours, 7 minutes and 8 seconds. 

Top female finisher Corley Smith, 17, of Islamorada, completed the race in 3 hours, 43 minutes and 13 seconds. 

Kayaks line the shore at Amara Cay resort in Islamorada before the swim to Alligator Lighthouse begins on the morning of Sept. 10. DAVID GROSS/Contributed
Swimmers begin the swim to the iconic Alligator Lighthouse off the shores of Islamorada. DAVID GROSS/Contributed

In other divisions, swimmers Greg Hodson and Joan Wheeler posted the fast two-person relay time of 4:05:44. Swimmers Lynnette Hennessey and Kolby Minckler from Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Joe Green from Bluffton, South Carolina, won the three-person class in 4:08:13. 

The winning four-person team consisted of male competitors from Ponte Vedra. Marty Berman, Andrew Freeman, Keith Kessler and Michael Miller posted a time of 4:27:46. 

Athletes swam to Alligator Reef Lighthouse off Islamorada, rounded the beacon and finished where they started at Amara Cay Resort. 

Founded by Florida Keys artist “Lighthouse Larry” Herlth, the annual race is staged to raise awareness about the need to preserve the almost 150-year-old Alligator Reef Lighthouse and five other aging lighthouses off the Florida Keys. The event also raises college scholarship funds for Keys students interested in competitive swimming.

Swimmers cross under a starting arch to begin the Swim for Alligator Lighthouse Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, in Islamorada, Fla. The 8-mile roundtrip open-water swim to the lighthouse off the Florida Keys has attracted more than 420 competitors who are swimming in various divisions. Alligator Reef Lighthouse is named after the USS Alligator, a U.S. Navy schooner that ran aground on the reef in 1822 and sank. The annual event is staged to create awareness of the need to preserve the almost 150-year-old beacon. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO)

The Islamorada community-based organization that hosts the annual swim was granted ownership of the lighthouse in 2021 under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. Restoring it is likely to take five to seven years and cost up to $9 million, according to organizers. Fundraising information can be found at savealligatorlighthouse.org.

Constructed to warn ships away from the Florida Keys reef tract, the lighthouses are no longer maintained since their function has been replaced by modern Global Positioning System navigation. 

Alligator Reef Lighthouse is named after the USS Alligator, a U.S. Navy schooner that ran aground on the reef in 1822 and sank. Despite misconceptions, there are no alligators around the lighthouse since those reptiles primarily live in freshwater habitats.

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