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Watch Nearly 400 Swimmers Compete in Open-Water Florida Keys Race

ISLAMORADAFlorida Keys – Nearly 400 swimmers from across the United States and several foreign lands competed in an 8-mile open-water challenge to raise funds to restore an aging lighthouse off the Florida Keys

Tampa, Florida, resident Connor Signorin, 31, emerged from the Atlantic Ocean Saturday as the fastest individual swimmer at the Swim for Alligator Lighthouse 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 — a new personal best for him at the swim.

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.”

Athletes swam to Alligator Reef Lighthouse off Islamorada, rounded the beacon and came back to the start and finish points at Amara Cay Resort.

Signorin said he loves the experience of swimming through the clear Florida Keys water.

“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,” he said.

Top female and second overall finisher Brooke Bennett, 43, of Clearwater, Florida, is a three-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer who triumphed in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. She completed the race in 3:09:06.

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: Islamorada residents Riley Cooper, 17; Chrislyn Lowell, 17; and Abbie Sargent, 16; with Reese Andres, 16, of Pompano Beach, Florida. 

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, the lighthouses 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 that 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.