Boy, 8, swims Golden Gate

The boy who set the record as the youngest person to swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco in May returned to The City over Labor Day weekend to become the youngest person to swim the Golden Gate.

Braxton Bilbrey, 8, of the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, completed the first annual Golden Gate Invitational swimming race in 55 minutes Sunday, his coach, Joe Zemaitis, said Monday. The race covers 1.5 miles from the starting line, about 150 yards west of Fort Point, to the finish line at Horseshoe Cove at Fort Baker on the Marin County side.

Braxton was 7 years old when he became the youngest person to swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco in May. On Saturday, he repeated that swim, competing in the Swim of the Centurions race. He then competed in the Golden Gate Invitational on Sunday.

“It's been a really productive weekend for him,” Zemaitis said.

Braxton said the hardest part of swimming in the ocean, compared with the pools and lakes in which he trains, is “the coldness, the currents and the waves,” and not the fatigue.

“It’s a little choppier. It tastes different,” he said.

“He’s really good at staying focused and getting through each swim,” Zemaitis said.

He said Braxton’s focus is his greatest asset, in addition to his athletic ability.

Braxton, who has been swimming since he was 3 years old, read an article in January about a 9-year-old who swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco, Zemaitis said. That made him want to beat that record, which he did May 22.

“I was happy that he was able to come out and swim with us,” Golden Gate Invitational organizer Bob Roper said. “It really made the event.”

Roper set the record for the swim across the Golden Gate in 1969, when he made the journey in 17 minutes, 20 seconds.

The oldest person to swim the Golden Gate Invitational was 71-year-old Alan Schmeiser, of Santa Rosa, who placed ninth with a time of 32 minutes, 32 seconds. The race winner, Bennett White, 45, of Petaluma, finished with a time of 31 minutes flat.

Braxton said the next feat he wants to undertake will be a swim from Aquatic Park around Alcatraz. That roughly three-mile route takes about two hours in the water, Zemaitis said.

amartin@examiner.com

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