Varsity swimmers ‘leave it in the pool’ for charity

Pamela London

The first swimmers of each relay take their marks in preparation for the beginning of the Hour of Power. Over 6,300 athletes across the nation participated in the event. Photo Credit: Zach Rosenberg

On Tuesday, Nov. 9, the Whitman College varsity swimmers redefined the notion of “leave it on the field,” a phrase constantly invoked by coaches during game time, by expending every ounce of energy and effort possible in the name of philanthropy.

Varsity swimmers joined over 100 teams and 6,000 athletes to “leave it in the pool,” participating in the annual Hour of Power in support of the Ted Mullin Fund for Pediatric Sarcoma Research at the University of Chicago.

“It’s a great tribute to Ted Mullin and it’s really taken off in a profound way,” said Chad Trexler, senior swimmer and four-year Hour of Power participant. “Everyone really got into it this year. When we finished I was beat. It was tough.”

The Hour of Power began in 2006 following the death of Carleton College varsity swimmer Ted Mullin to soft tissue cancer. When the event was first held, only 15 teams participated. These figures have risen rapidly: At the 2009 Hour of Power, 134 teams from four continents competed, including over 100 collegiate programs, and the event raised over 190,000 dollars. This year was no exception. 137 teams competed, with international teams coming from Denmark, Spain, the Fiji Islands and the Czech Republic, in addition to the collegiate, club and high school contingent in the US.   Over 6,300 total athletes participated in event.

This is the fourth year that Whitman has been a participant in the Hour of Power. It is the sole representative of the Northwest Conference in the event.

Consisting of an hour-long, all-out relay race, swimmers can use any stroke they choose with the goal of keeping the relay in each lane swimming on the same 50-meter length. Five to six swimmers typically swim in each lane, and the team stays together for the entirety of the 60 minutes.

“The actual hour of continuous sprinting together is great training and a wonderful team building experience,” Whitman swim coach Jenn Blomme said. “But it is also very powerful to feel connected to the greater swimming community. The fact that other teams all over the country are doing the exact same thing on the very same day makes what we’re doing feel even more important.”

First-year swimmer Claire Collins echoed her coach’s sentiment, sharing how the team’s support helped her through the event.

“I was so tired, but we were in it together, so I kept going,” she said.

Trexler noted an “atmosphere of awareness” that accompanied this year’s Hour of Power. He attributed the new intensity to a growing consciousness about the purpose of the event.

“Everyone is affected by cancer in some way,” Collins said, echoing Trexler’s sentiments. “[The Hour of Power] made me think of all the people that I know who are battling cancer. I did it for them and Ted Mullin.”

“One of the things that is so special to me about the Hour of Power is that as a team we really get to celebrate what a privilege it is, as college athletes, to be young and healthy,” Blomme added. “It is easy to take that for granted, but on this day in particular we have the opportunity to focus on how lucky we are.”