Titan Athletes prepare take their annual Polar Plunge

Alessia Girardin, News Editor

Photo: IWU Athletics

Every year, IWU’s athletic department jumps into the freezing water to benefit Special Olympics Illinois. This year’s Polar Plunge will take place at Miller Park, 1020 S. Morris Ave. this Saturday, February 26th at 10:30 a.m. and Titan athletes are ready to take the plunge. 

Special Olympics Illinois is a non-profit organization that offers year-round training and competition in 18 sports for more than 23,100 athletes with intellectual disabilities and 13,000 young athletes ages 2–7 without intellectual disabilities. 

“I’m excited to see all the Wesleyan teams together for a great cause,” sophomore and volleyball team member Taylor Babec said. 

This year, participants can choose from two options, either Plunge OUR way or Plunge YOUR way. Plunge OUR way would mean attending one of the 24 in-person Polar Plunges across the state hosted by Special Olympics Illinois. Plunge YOUR way would mean plunging in a kiddie-pool, in the office with a bucket of water, or another “safe” way to plunge. 

At the Special Olympics, there are more than 550 registered plungers for Bloomington so far. Plungers tend to come from the surrounding community, as part of the Region G polar plunge they will be expecting plungers coming from as far north as Pontiac.   

“As an organization we are just looking forward to seeing the community back together again– because it is also a community thing,” Michelle Mayer said. Mayer is the Assistant Director of the Special Olympics Marketing Team.

Photo: IWU Athletics

There currently are 85 IWU teams plunging in women’s volleyball, swimming and diving, and both men and women’s soccer, softball, and football on Saturday from 10 to 10:15 a.m. As of Monday, February 21, IWU has the largest group plunging. 

Many Titan athletes share a love for the Polar Plunge not only because of the communal aspect, but also because of the impact it has. 

“The Titan Athletics team always has a large group and I think that that says a lot about the culture of IWU Athletics and how important it is to us to give back to the community,” alum Caitlin Meyer said. 

Jessica McCall, another student who has participated in the Polar Plunge in the past, said that one of the best parts about the event is how connected everyone is afterwards. 

“I spend a lot of time working and volunteering with kids with special needs and it never ceases to make me smile when I see someone wearing a Polar Plunge sweatshirt,” McCall said. 

IWU’s athletes are not the only ones excited about the return to plunging. Last year, plungers participated by jumping into pools placed on the Shirk Athletic Center track, but Associate Athletic Director Kim Nelson-Brown said that she was looking forward to going back to the lake.

Photo: IWU Athletics

“There’s just a huge level of support and overall rewarding feeling being in a group at the lake,” Nelson-Brown said.  

For Titans that are new to the Polar Plunge, McCall offered advice to prepare for the weather, as well as what to wear in the water. In her four years, McCall said that there’s no way to predict exactly what the plunge will be like. It could be 50 degrees or they may be cutting a hole in the ice for you to plunge in. 

“My suggestion is don’t wear crocs because you will lose them even if you wear the adventure strap,” McCall said. 

To receive the Polar Plunge sweatshirt, registered participants must raise at least $100. Those who raise more than $100 may earn other incentive prizes like shirts, fanny packs, or sweatpants. All proceeds collected by plungers will benefit more than 23,000 traditional athletes and 13,000 young athletes of Special Olympics Illinois. As of February 21, Titans have raised about $7,000 but they are hoping to get closer to $10,000 before they jump into the lake on Saturday.