Making Waves For A Cure
By Maggie Pruitt
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Hundreds of swimmers dive into the Narragansett Bay with more than the temperature of the chilly water on their minds. The distance of the swim is just a side thought – the back and forth motion of the choppy water doesn’t faze anyone.
The only thing these swimmers care about is beating cancer.
Every year, Swim Across America organizes benefit swims around the country to raise money for clinical trials and cancer research. The organization works to unite the swimming community by raising money and hosting open water benefit swims with hopes of defeating cancer.
Roger Wheeler Beach in Narragansett, R.I., hosts one of the 16 national swims every September. From high schools and colleges to individuals and teams, people travel to compete in the half or one mile open water swim or volunteer for the event. This year, Swim Across America surpassed its goal of $175,000, raising $181,987 at the Rhode Island swim.
The Holy Cross swimming & diving teams have participated in the Rhode Island swim every year for the last six years. Each swimmer who participates is tasked with raising at least $250 by the day of the event. Freshman Katherine O’Malley was ranked as the fifth-highest individual fundraiser of all participants with $2,525. The Holy Cross swimming & diving teams were second overall for fundraising teams and raised $15,130. The Crusaders have raised over $60,000 for the event since 2011.
For many swimmers, this event brings out emotions that are not always present in the pool. The feeling of diving into the ocean with hundreds of people swimming for the same cause can not only be empowering, but also nerve-racking.
“During the actual swim, the water is extremely cold and the other swimmers are aggressive,” senior Maura Mullaney said. “But, you push through because you know you are swimming for a purpose and for someone’s memory.”
The goal of the swim is not race to win but race to remember, and every participant is racing for someone.
“As a college swimmer, your first instinct when you hit the water during a race is to focus on being the first to finish,” said senior Hayden Kucharski. “Swim Across America is a different type of event though where everyone is supporting each other and thinking about the people who we're doing it for,”
The Rhode Island swim has been an important experience for many Holy Cross swimmers and divers, especially this year – it is a day of coming together as a team and to swim for something more than times or laps.
“Participating in the Swim Across America event for the past four years has been one of the greatest experiences I’ve had as a member of the Holy Cross swim team,” said senior Nina Sparre. “It is an awesome bonding experience and a very special day for all the participants.”
Swimming and raising money for cancer research impacted Holy Cross even more this year. The teams dedicated the swim to Henry Carr, a Holy Cross student who lost his battle with cancer June 5, 2017. Before the event started, the organization observed a moment of silence in Carr’s memory.
The emotional atmosphere of the benefit swim can be overwhelming for the rookies who have never participated. Some are excited for the swim, while others don’t knowing what to expect from the waves at Narragansett Bay. Freshman Eve Smith was new to the ocean swim style.
“Before the swim, I was actually really nervous because I had never done an open water event and also knew the ocean would be freezing,” said Smith. “Mid-race and after finishing I realized the temperature and swim really were not as bad as I thought at all.”
The event serves as an annual bonding experience for the swimming & diving teams before the start of the season. Even head coach Barry Parenteau participates.
“It’s an incredible day,” Parenteau said. “We get on the bus and get out as a team to swim for a good cause.”