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La Jolla Rough Water Swim set for Sept. 13

For nearly 80 years, swimmers have been braving the waters of La Jolla Cove in early September to test their mettle in one of the city’s great sporting traditions - the La Jolla Rough Water Swim.

That tradition will continue Sunday at 9 a.m., when the horn sounds for the first race in the 79th annual event.

The Rough Water Swim will include 18 different races throughout the morning and afternoon, with swimmers separated into age and gender groups.

Kids’ races run from 9-9:45 a.m. and are 250 yards long, and the 1-mile adult races begin at 11 a.m. There is also a 3-mile Gatorman event for men and women, scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. The final races of the day are the one-mile amateur boys and girls races at 1:35 p.m. and 1:40 p.m. respectively.

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The 1-mile swim follows a triangular route starting and ending at La Jolla Cove. The Gatorman course follows the coast north along La Jolla Shores to Scripps Pier and returns to La Jolla Cove.

Online registration has closed, but swimmers interested in participating can still sign up on Sept. 12 at the pre-race expo. The race-weekend fee for junior races is $56, amateur races are $70, masters races are $90, and Gatorman races cost $100.

More information about the races is available on the event’s Web site at www.ljrws.com.

Race officials did not return phone calls seeking official numbers for this year’s races, but last year, the 18 races attracted more than 2,000 swimmers. The most popular was the men’s masters division, which featured more than 600 participants.

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Swimmers ranged in age from 8 years old to 85 and came from all over California and many other states. David Joy of La Jolla was among the oldest swimmers, at 81.

Trevor Hoyt of Yucaipa, who covered the course in 19 minutes, 12.1 secondsm recorded last year’s fastest men’s 1-mile time. He was followed closely by Cody Votez of Scottsdale, Ariz., in 19:13.4 and Cary Wright of Fresno in 19:20.

The best 1-mile women’s time from 2008 belonged to La Jolla native Corrie Falcon, who clocked a 20:04.2. Amy Dantzler of Los Angeles was next in 20:41.8, and San Diego’s Jessica Heim was the third fastest in 21:02.2.

In the Gatorman events, the top men’s time of 2008 came from Denison Cullom of Dana Point, who finished the grueling course in 58:13.8. The top women’s Gatorman time of 61:05.9 belonged to Dawn Heckman of Pasadena.

While all the races are popular and well-attended, the Gatorman event is usually the most intriguing, as it is significantly longer and more challenging than the course for masters and amateur swimmers.

The La Jolla Rough Water Swim was first held in 1916 and became an annual event starting in 1931. It is billed as the largest rough water swim in the country.

78th La Jolla Rough Water Swim

What: 1-mile competitive ocean swim; there is also a junior event (250 yards) and a Gatorman event (3 miles)

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When: Sept. 13; 9 a.m.-1:40 p.m.

Where: Starts and ends at La Jolla Cove