For two summers running, Cape May Beach Patrol has proven itself on its own turf at the Cape May Point Women’s Lifeguard Challenge. The glory for these victories is owed entirely to the Reading Ave. stand partners and team of Meghan O’Leary and Kerry Choplin. Thanks to these two exceptional lifesavers, this week’s choice for lifeguard(s) of the week was a no-brainer. Together, they have defeated the 2011 and 2012 competition, receiving the honor of first team overall at the Women’s Challenge. And so together, we honor them.
Twenty seven year old Meghan O’Leary has summered at her parents’ home in Cape May her whole life. Originally from West Chester, PA, O’Leary comes from a long Cape May lifeguarding legacy. Her father, brother, uncle, and cousins have all been proud members of the Cape May Beach Patrol. A guarding career seemed totally natural to her. “It’s a family thing…I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t a lifeguard,” jokes O’Leary. She joined the Cape May Junior Lifeguard program as soon as she could at the age of 9.
Her most memorable lifeguarding experience? The entire summer of 2011 was full of career highlights. O’Leary placed second and her rookie stand partner Kerry Choplin placed 1st in the Women’s Lifeguard Challenge at the Point, automatically earning them the title of first team overall. The Cape May Female Lifeguard Team won the Ventnor race and placed third at the Ocean City race. Choplin and O’Leary even made a splash at Nationals, scoring eighth as a team in the rescue swim pick up and ninth in the Taplin Relay.
In light of their awesome accomplishments, Choplin received Cape May’s Rookie of the Year award and O’Leary won the Guard of the Year title. In a formal ceremony, “the city gave us a proclamation stating that our efforts were great,” explained O’Leary. The mayor himself handed the awards to these two exceptional athletes. The recognition meant a lot to O’Leary. “It took a while for us to really mesh together as a girls’ team, but after all of my efforts, if it took eleven years, then it took eleven years to have such a great summer.”
When she’s not on the Reading Ave. stand, Meghan O’Leary keeps up the hard work as an employee at Sunset Liquors and the Cape May Whale Watcher. After graduating from Cabrini College, O’Leary received her Master’s degree from West Chester University in counseling. In the off season, she employs these counseling skills as a coach of the Varsity swimming program and Freshman girls’ lacrosse program at West Chester East High School. In her down time, O’Leary loves to travel. She just recently visited Australia and is now preparing for an upcoming trip to Peru. O’Leary also has a knack for crafts. She collects sea glass and other unique items and incorporates them in her very own jewelry pieces.
Kerry Choplin, 23, completes this dynamic winning lifeguard duo. Her guarding career began in her hometown of West Deptford, NJ, but she brought her stellar skills to the beaches of Cape May after meeting her boyfriend and 10 year CMBP lifeguard. While this season is only Choplin’s second with the Cape May Beach Patrol, her accomplishments in this year’s and last year’s Women’s Lifeguard Challenge speak volumes about what her future may hold… “My first year at the Cape May Point race I didn’t know what I was doing or what I was getting into, but both of us worked together really well and trained together really well,” says Choplin of her and O’Leary’s win. Does the pressure of the lifeguarding job ever wear on Kerry? “Our patrol works so well together. You always know that there’s going to be some one there to back you up. We just have a really good system so you don’t really get nervous because you know they’ll be there.”
Kerry graduated from Kutztown in May of last year and has since begun graduate school for school counseling at Rowan University. In her leisure time, Kerry loves surfing with her boyfriend and attending concerts. Her favorite local spot? Her very own house in North Cape May along the bay. “I just love watching the sunset. Just sitting on the porch or walking across the street to the beach, that’s my favorite place.”
Get to know these award-winning guards at Reading Ave. Beach in Cape May where they make the CMBP proud and keep beachgoers safe.
By Megan Kummer