Top female and second overall finisher Brooke Bennett, 43, of Clearwater, Fla., completes the Swim For Alligator Lighthouse challenge Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in Islamorada, Fla. Bennett is a three-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer (1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney). She completed the race in 3:09:06. The annual event helps raise funds to restore Alligator Reef Lighthouse, one of six aging Florida Keys lighthouses. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY Cory Knowlton/Fixed Focus Photography

Florida swimmers Connor Signorin and three-time Olympic gold medalist Brooke Bennett took top honors at the Swim for Alligator Lighthouse on Sept. 9. The eight-mile open-water challenge raises funds to restore the aging lighthouse off Islamorada. 

Signorin, a 31-year-old from Tampa, emerged from the Atlantic ocean as the fastest individual swimmer at the challenge, earning his third consecutive win at the event. The former University of Florida swimmer, who won All-American honors five times, turned in a time of 2 hours, 59 minutes and 44 seconds.

Top female and second overall finisher Bennett, 43, of Clearwater completed the race in 3:09:06. 

Signorin said his goal for the Swim for Alligator Lighthouse was not as much about winning as it was about enjoying the event. 

 “It’s not even a goal, it’s just here to finish every time, have fun, enjoy the moment,” he said. “Whatever happens at the finish happens, we’re here.”

Some 400 athletes swam to Alligator Reef Lighthouse, rounded the beacon and came back to the start and finish points at Amara Cay Resort. 

“You’re here amongst the sea life and this is your natural form of swimming — this isn’t pool swimming, this is as natural as it gets … beautiful,” Signorin said.

A swimmer escorted by a kayaker, competes in the Swim for Alligator Lighthouse open-water challenge Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, off Islamorada, Fla., in the Florida Keys. BOB CARE/Florida Keys News Bureau

 In other divisions, Matthew Dushuttle and Adam Regar, both of St. Johns, Florida, posted the fastest two-person relay time at 3:36:54. The winning three-person team, with a time of 4:10:11, was a mixed relay of Florida residents Claire Donnelly of Delray Beach, Sheaffer Watt from Lake Worth and Taylor Sohlberg of Boynton Beach. 

 The top four-person relay team was made up of female high-school-age competitors in Islamorada residents Riley Cooper, 17; Chrislyn Lowell, 17; and Abbie Sargent, 16; with Reese Andres, 16, of Pompano Beach

 A team of 20 swimmers represented Kidney Donor Athletes to raise awareness about life-saving organ donation, and to show that kidney organ donors are not diminished in what they can accomplish.

Founded by Florida Keys artist “Lighthouse Larry” Herlth, the annual race is staged to raise funds and awareness about the need to preserve the 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.

Constructed to warn ships away from the Florida Keys reef tract, lighthouses including Alligator are no longer maintained, as their function has been replaced by modern Global Positioning System navigation. The lighthouse was named for the former U.S. Navy schooner Alligator, which grounded on the reef in 1822. The vessel was blown up after as much equipment as possible was removed to prevent it from being used by pirates.