Junior Zej Moczydlowski, a member of the men’s rugby team, knows a thing or two about taking hits, but that didn’t alleviate the shock of plunging into near-freezing temperatures Saturday.
“It feels like you’re getting punched in the chest because it’s so cold,” said Moczydlowski, who along with 20 members of the GW men’s and women’s rugby teams participated in the Polar Plunge in the Chesapeake Bay this weekend.
Every January for the last 10 years, people raise money for Maryland Special Olympics as they jump into cold waters. GW junior Julie Butner, who plunged for her fourth time this year, organized members of the teams to join her for a dip. Each of the GW students who went raised at least $50 for the Maryland Special Olympics, Butner said, and the two teams combined raised $2,400.
“It’s an absolutely great event,” said Butner, the president of the women’s rugby team. “It’s so much more fun to do the swim with my friends too.”
Swimming with her teammates for the first time this year was not the only improvement over plunges of previous years, Butner said. Last year, organizers had to break the ice up in the water before participants went swimming. Butner said the relatively warm weather on Saturday made the plunge a little easier.
“It didn’t feel the same,” Butner said. “It wasn’t as painful, and most of us went in a couple of times.”
Moczydlowski, vice president of the men’s rugby team, said he jumped – literally – at the opportunity to participate with the team.
“We wanted to do some more philanthropy events this year to clean up our image,” Moczydlowski said. “We wanted to give back, but we also want to preserve our wild image.”
“Right before you jump in you think ‘wow, this is a bad idea,'” Moczydlowski said. “Then you just do it.”
Butner said about 5,000 people took the plunge into the 37-degree water this year, more than have participated in the past.
“It was great to try something I’d never done before for a good cause,” said Joe Hallahan, a freshman rugby player. “Right when I got in, I wanted to get out.”
-Brandon Butler contributed to this report.