Mead’s tune-up swim is fastest in Semana Nautica 6-miler

Mallory Mead broke the male domination of the Semana Nautica 6-mile ocean swim on Sunday.

Mead, a 27-year-old professional open water swimmer, became the first woman to win the overall title since Lynn Nisbet in 2000. She finished the swim from Goleta Beach Pier to Hendry’s Beach in 2 hours, 13 minutes, 21 seconds.

Santa Barbara’s Ed Smith, who’s made it a tradition to complete all the Semana Nautica open-water swims (1-mile, 3-mile and 5-mile biathlon), came in second place in 2:24.05. Record-setting waterman and Ventura Deep 6 member Jim McConica took third in 2:26.24, followed by newcomer Arjun McAvoy (2:26.56) and Theo Schmeeckle (2:27.28) to complete the top five.

Rounding out the top 10 were Carrie Cook (2:27.38), Courtney Weigand (2:29.17), Moby Coquilland (2:29.25), Chip Blankenhorn (2:32.34) and Zach Jirkovsky (2:35.59).

Mead, a former collegiate swimmer at Western Kentucky, has found her niche in open-water swimming. She’s successfully crossed the English Channel, the Catalina Channel and completed the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (28.5 miles), known as the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming.

Mead and the other finishers battled against the current and endured cold, choppy water in the first hour of the race, which started a little after 9 a.m.

“I think I swallowed a gallon of salt water in the first hour,” she joked. “After that it smoothed out a bit and there was more swell than chop, and it became a little more enjoyable because I could feel my body and feel how I felt instead of feeling jostled around.”

Mead, who trains in Manhattan Beach, said she was doing the Semana Nautica race as a tune-up for 32- and 34-kilometer international events in Quebec, Canada in a couple of weeks.

“I’m ready to rock and roll,” she said.

Smith, the 2011 champion, said Sunday’s conditions “were in the middle realm of extreme difficulty. It was probably in the hard category.”

Still, the Aussie native powered through the tough conditions and opened distance from the rest of the field.

“Usually I clear out and try to get ahead of the field as much as I can, so that you cannot feel as much pressure at the end,” Smith said. “There’s nothing worse than being at the end of a swim like that and have some competition in the last 200 yards.”

Sunday’s swim drew a record field of 45 swimmers, which made long-time event director and three-time overall champion Jane Cairns happy.

Cairns was excited to see a woman finish first overall.

“Hey, I love it. Woman power, that’s great,” she said.

Cairns gave props to Bill Ireland, who became the fourth person to complete 10 Semana Nautica 6-milers. “I’ve got my Ten Club, so Bill Ireland is right there now.”