Something in the water - Parker lifeguards win challenge as top in state

Posted 7/22/19

Painted on a yellow lifeguard backboard is the image of a three-headed hydra, each head with a familiar face — Jackie Frohne, Hannah Quaney and Bryan Gentilini, three lead staff members at the …

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Something in the water - Parker lifeguards win challenge as top in state

Three of the team of nine that won the 34th Annual Lifeguard Games at Water World in Denver July 7. From left, Sage Mortson, 19, Jordan Whitehead, 18, and Dakota Jones, 20.
Three of the team of nine that won the 34th Annual Lifeguard Games at Water World in Denver July 7. From left, Sage Mortson, 19, Jordan Whitehead, 18, and Dakota Jones, 20.
Nick Puckett
Posted

Painted on a yellow lifeguard backboard is the image of a three-headed hydra, each head with a familiar face — Jackie Frohne, Hannah Quaney and Bryan Gentilini, three lead staff members at the Parker Rec Center's aquatics division. The painting is now retired in one of the offices at the Parker Rec Center as memorabilia from their top finish at the annual Lifeguard Games at Water World in Federal Heights on July 7.

The painting paired with a fictional story of the team's origins for a skit, which was one of the events in the competition. To the underdog staff, the made-up story fit well as an epic to how their staff became one of the most well-trained around.

“We used to be this poor, weak lifeguard pool. We were nothing, then this three-headed dragon came in and made us better,” lifeguard Jordan Whitehead said, describing the meaning of the painting. “And it was accurate!”

The lifeguard staff's three-headed monster is the main source to what the lifeguards themselves describe as a higher bar they must meet day in, day out.

“We've always thought we were the best of the best, but this is proof,” said lifeguard Dakota Jones, referring to the plaque the team was awarded for its first-place finish.

A team of nine from the Parker Rec Center topped all other teams that competed in the annual lifeguard challenge at Water World: Jones, Whitehead, Sage Mortson, Brandon Garin, Cade Fries, Will Bennett, Maddy Bender, Tyler Velasquez and Anna Toro.

“We expected we were going to have a good day, but we didn't think we were going to kick butt as much as we did,” Whitehead said. “We kept working harder and harder and had more and more fun as the day went on.”

This team feels comfortable saying they're the best, and they have the plaque to prove it. Parker had not sent a team in nine years, Gentilini said. Coming out on top after nearly a decade speaks volumes, he said, to the amount of preparation the guards put in daily to perfect their technique.

“In just this last couple months we've seen these new folks come on to an updated culture and updated standard that are truly led by our veteran staff here and all our experienced guards and leadership team members, which is great,” said Gentilini, the town's aquatics supervisor.

Gentilini said his lifeguards go through between 5 1/2 to 6 hours of training a month, which is about an extra hour each month of more training than the average staff in Colorado.

“When Bryan came, we did a lot of training and it was new and exciting, so showing what we've actually been working for — because obviously we're not doing the stuff we did at the games every day at the pool. It was fun to show that,” Mortson said.

Jones had a big sister lifeguard before him, and his little brother is beginning the process of becoming one.

“A lot of what we have here is families,” Jones said. “It's a repetitive culture.”

Though the number of qualified lifeguards to work local pools has dipped nationwide, Gentilini reported his staff — extra rigor and all — has continued to draw applicants who want to be part of the team.

“I think it's narrowed down the field, but on the flip side, the word of mouth from staff here,” Gentilini said, “people have that standard coming in and expect they can't just walk in the door and get hired.”

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