HADLEY, Mass. – More than 50 current and former NESCAC swimming student-athletes and coaches took to the water on Saturday, July 15, to participate in the Swim Across America ocean-mile swim at Nantasket Beach in Hull, Mass., in an effort to raise money for cancer research. Individuals representing seven NESCAC institutions helped raise over $40,000 as part of the $250,000 that was given during the weekend for cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
"The event was a wonderful opportunity for our student-athletes to contribute to a great cause while doing something that they love at the same time," commented Kristen Noone, the Trinity College swimming head coach. "Our student-athletes learned about teamwork, selflessness, and coming together in a community effort for a personal cause for so many. You can be certain that the individuals that participated know someone, either a family member or a friend, who has battled with cancer."
Swim Across America is celebrating its 20th anniversary, growing from a single event in 1987 in Nantucket, Mass., to 10 events in four major metropolitan areas, raising $13.5 million to date for cancer research, awareness, prevention and treatment. The events unite recreational swimmers, competitive swimmers, master swimmers, Olympians, kayakers, boaters, and hundreds of volunteers all committed to finding a cure. According to Swim Across America, close to 1,500 swimmers participate every year, ranging in age from seven to 78.
The Trinity team became involved in Swim Across America last summer at the suggestion of Mike Lenihan, one of Noone's swimmers. Lenihan, who will be finishing his degree in public policy and law and history this year at Trinity, began swimming in the annual event during his days at North Andover (Mass.) High School at the suggestion of a friend from his former hometown on Long Island. Lenihan had family members that were sick from cancer at the time, so the swim at Nantasket Beach sounded like a great idea to him. Since participating in his first Swim Across America event six years ago, Lenihan has entered the one-mile swim at Nantasket Beach each summer along with swimming in the 22-mile Boston Harbor relay swim over the past three years.
"When I first joined up with Swim Across America, it was a natural fit - swimmers working hard to help find a cure for a disease that impacts the lives of everyone," said Lenihan. "As the event's popularity grew, there was a clear connection to first link in my high school team, then Trinity, and then the NESCAC. There isn't anyone out there who can't think of a loved one who has been affected by cancer, and swimming-related or not, any effort that fights against this horrible disease is a noble one."
After the Bantam swimming team participated in the 2005 edition of Swim Across America, Trinity reached out to the other NESCAC swimming teams and encouraged them to participate in the 2006 event. This summer, Trinity was joined on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean by fellow NESCAC members Amherst, Hamilton, Middlebury, Tufts, Wesleyan and Williams.
"Getting other NESCAC teams involved was a natural progression after the experience Trinity had last year," stated Noone. "This event allows NESCAC teams to participate together towards one common goal, which is one of the things that the NESCAC stands for. While there is an atmosphere of competition present, the focus of fundraising makes the competition fun."
On Saturday morning around 8:00 a.m., the NESCAC student-athletes, coaches and alumni all gathered at Nantasket Beach in preparation for their swim. The participants entered the chilly water about an hour later, completing a one-mile course through the ocean before running back to shore. Williams junior Ben Bullitt (Brookline, Mass.) was the first among all participants to finish the course, completing his swim in 23 minutes, 25 seconds.
"Our team had a blast," said Hamilton head coach T.J. Davis, one of the many NESCAC swimming coaches to participate in the event. "It was a great opportunity for our current and former team members to reconnect with each other for a great cause. The water was frigid – just above 60 degrees – and fortunately I had a wetsuit. Many of our swimmers didn't have wetsuits, but they braved the cold temperatures to contribute to a worthwhile cause."
The teams spent the three months leading up to the event fundraising, and while each individual was required to raise only $150, a majority of the NESCAC participants were able to raise more than the minimum amount. Trinity exceeded its 2005 fundraising total of $11,000 this year, contributing well over $15,000. Hamilton, in its first year participating in Swim Across America, was able to raise over $14,000 thanks to the efforts of sophomore Stefanie Capizzi (Bridgewater, N.J.). Capizzi was the top individual fundraiser for the Nantasket Beach event, contributing $11,000.
Noone is proud of what the NESCAC participants accomplished during this year's Swim Across America and is already looking forward to the event next summer.
"When we gathered after the swim for a group picture, there was a feeling of pride in representing our conference and how much we contributed to the total amount raised for Dana-Farber. We're hoping to grow beyond the 50-plus individuals from the NESCAC next year and continue the tradition established this year."