Steffen, Schultz finish on top in Semana Nautica ocean swim finale

Taylor Steffen is the first one out of the water after the Semana Nautica 3-mile swim.

Taylor Steffen is the first one out of the water in the Semana Nautica 3-mile swim. (Presidio Sports photo)

Taylor Steffen can thank a curious sea lion for giving him a burst of energy as he made his away around the final buoy near Stearns Wharf and headed for home in Sunday’s Semana Nautica 3-mile ocean swim.

“Two minutes before I rounded the pier buoy, I saw this sea lion pop up and I got pretty freaked out,” said Steffen, 16, after winning his fifth Semana Nautica ocean swim event. “After that I didn’t look down in the water. I swam with my head up and sprinted. My mom told me afterward that the sea lion had been swimming with me for about five minutes.”

The encounter with the mammal enabled Steffen to pull away from the field and win the longest competitive swim of his life in 1 hour, 5 minutes, 23 seconds.

The top three finishers Sunday were the same as Saturday’s mile swim. Steffen finished ahead of his Santa Barbara Swim Club teammates Sean Apsey and Alex Roderick. Apsey came in second at 1:07.55 and Roderick was third in 1:08.01. Next came the 35-39 age-group swimmers: Arjun McAvoy placed fourth in 1:08.16 and Ed Smith took fifth in 1:08.39. Dylan Apsey, another teen from the swim club, was sixth (1:11.22).


Karen Schultz won the women’s title and placed seventh overall with a time of 1:11.30. The victory gave her a sweep of the long-distance events — she won the 6-miler last Sunday. Schultz also took first place in a Nite Moves 1k swim and Reef and Run Series mile, and was runner-up in the Henzell and Mullen Semana Nautica mile (by 3 seconds). Her results put her in good position to claim Women’s Swimmer of the Year honors.

“I had a busy week and I’m tired,” she said after receiving her first-place plaque for the 3-mile race. “All I really needed to do for the Semana Nautica point series was not to place too badly yesterday.”

The former University of Minnesota swimmer felt the 3-miler was tougher for her than the six.

“It’s harder to go shorter distances … you go faster,” she said. “I went out pretty fast with the front group and drafted until I fell off their feet near the orange turn buoy. Then lost their feet and I was on my own for a while. Someone else came passed me, so I drafted behind him for a while, but we both we went off course — we came too far inside. I got away from him and swam pretty much on my own the rest of the way.”

Mile champion Courtney Weigand was the second women finisher and ninth overall in 1:12.06.

Steffen said he took a slower pace to the first buoy, which was past the East Beach volleyball courts.

“I just kind of cruised down to the orange buoy,” he said. “Once I got half way (back, adjacent the Bath House) I was determined to lose Alex Roderick because he was right on my feet. So, I sped it up. Once I got near the pier I kind of died and just tried to make it back.”

The sea lion then made his appearance and Steffen suddenly found a burst of energy and finished strong.

The victory was the Goleta teen’s fifth straight during Semana Nautica, making him the favorite for the Swimmer of the Year award. He started his win streak with the Nite Moves 1k on July 1, then captured the last two Reef and Run mile swims on July 2 and 8 followed by Saturday’s Henzell and Mullen mile.

Sunday’s 3-mile swim had 70 finishers.

Male 17-Under: Taylor Steffen, 1:05.23
Male 25-34: Dmitry Vasilkov, 1:40.16
Male 35-39: Arjun McAvoy, 1:08.16
Male 40-44: Mark Urish, 1:21.47
Male 45-49: Jeremy Becker, 1:11.43
Male 50-54: Jon Clark 1:12.20
Male 55-59: Bart Simmons 1:15.41
Male 65-69: John Nisbet 1:28.02
Female 35-39: Karen Schultz, 1:11.30
Female 40-44: Heather Royer, 1:24.28
Female 50-54: Mary-Pat Barry, 1:36.44
Female 55-59: Liz Boscacci, 1:32.01
Female 60-64: Marie Berry, 1:38.47