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Taking the plunge

Annual campus tradition comes to potential close

by Ashley Watkins,
  • Students jump into Lake Mary Nell during the Polar Bear Plunge Jan. 13, chasing after a ball thrown into the water. The first student to retrieve the ball won a $5 gift card to a local restaurant or store. Photo by Al Drago.

  • Photo by Al Drago.

  • Photo by Al Drago.

  • Photo by Al Drago.

For the ninth time, Elon students had the opportunity to take part in what has annually been called the Polar Bear Plunge. Sponsored by North Area Council and the Resident Student Association, this event allows students to take a jump into the freezing waters of Lake Mary Nell to win prizes and receive free long-sleeve shirts.

But 2012 may be the last year this Elon tradition takes place.

The North Area Council has sponsored this event since its inception, but with the rest of the existing dorms in North Area scheduled for demolition this summer and the construction of a new Global Neighborhood underway, it may be at least two years until a program like the
Polar Bear Plunge takes place again. Students involved with planning the Plunge said they hope it can be reestablished on campus in the near future.

"We are sad it won't be around," said junior Sarah Hoopes, the Resident Area Coordinator of North Area. "People from other areas other than North came to this event. It really brought everyone together. Hopefully, the new North Area will bring it back, but the tough part about that will be most of the students who will be on council then won't have ever seen the Plunge."

The Polar Bear Plunge is free to students and it is the only time in the year when students are allowed to enter the waters of Lake Mary Nell. According to Hoopes, about 150 students were estimated to have participated in this year's Plunge.

Many groups of friends decided to take the Plunge together. One of these groups included junior Rachel Arnesen and her rugby teammates.

"I decided to do it because this was the last year for it," Arnesen said. "It's been on my Elon bucket list. Also, it's just something crazy to do."

Freshman Courtney Stover came with her upperclassman teammates to the event.

"My first reaction when I jumped in was, 'Wow, this water's cold,'" Stover said. "It's definitely fun to participate with a group."

There are many preparations the Area Council must make before holding the event. They must design shirts, rent tables and music and, most importantly, contact Physical Plant to ensure the water is safe to enter. Precautions are taken to secure safety of the participants by hiring a lifeguard from Campus Rec to be on duty and by sending any injured or possibly injured students to the R.N. Ellington Health and Counseling Center.

This year, free hot chocolate was served as well as cookies and snacks. Prizes included $5 gift cards to Local Yogurt, Target and Buffalo Wild Wings, among others.

Students jumped into the water in groups of 10 after a ball was thrown in. The person who retrieved the ball was awarded the gift card upon their successful return to shore.

Some students who previously participated in the Plunge developed strategies for winning.

"I like to assess my competition early," said junior Alain Monyette, a participant in the Plunge for all of his three years at Elon. "I eliminate the most dangerous contestants, like the long-limbed ones. Dunking usually works for that."

Monyette said he personally felt the Plunge was ending in a good place for him.

"I am a three-time gift card winner, and as a three-time champ, I'm glad to be going out on top," he said.

Other students, such as freshman Charlie Tangires, had different reasons for participating.

"My friend convinced me to do it, and I thought it sounded awesome," Tangires said. "I think I was the last one in and the first one to come out, but it was a fun experience and I got video of me doing it to put on YouTube like I wanted."