May River graduate posts top time at Beaufort River Swim
The 11th annual Beaufort River Swim took place on Saturday morning at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, where spectators gathered to encourage swimmers through the finish line.
Beaufort County’s young swimming talent showed through as 17-year old Erek Nelson, who recently graduated from May River High School, set the pace with a time of 50 minutes, 46 seconds.
Josie Cuda, 22, formerly of Hilton Head Island High, finished first among women with a 56:38 mark.
George Mereno, a member of the U.S. Olympic pentathlon team and professional triathlete, finished just a few seconds behind Nelson and could have claimed the crown for a second year in a row if he didn’t invite Nelson to the event.
Mereno is Nelson’s coach with Bluffton’s Fins competitive swim team.
“I told (Nelson) if he wants to come step up to the challenge, then come out to the River Swim,” Mereno said. “When someone is there to push you, it just becomes more fun.”
Mereno didn’t take anything away from his prodigy, calling him “a stud of a man.” But he pointed out that Saturday was endurance day for the iron man, as he biked two hours from Hardeeville before jumping into the river.
Nelson said that he doesn’t normally swim in open water events.
“I did this for fun,” he said. “I was racing my coach. He’s a professional triathlete and I figured I’d give him a run for his money.
“I felt good until the very end when everything started tightening up. Then I was like, ‘Uh oh.’ But I think it was a good swim. I felt like I went pretty fast.”
Nelson, who has three state titles to his name in the backstroke, is committed to swim for Towson University.
“It was between (Towson) and a couple other schools,” he said. “But I love the environment there. The coaching staff and team are all really great people.”
Cuda graduated in August from Florida State, where she was a captain on the swim team. She has been participating in the Beaufort River Swim with her sister for the past three years.
“It’s a challenge,” she said. “It took me a while to get into it this year. I was a little nervous but I ended up having a lot of fun.”