Women’s Swimming Makes Ripples Through Activism
By Amro El-Adle '13, Editor-in-Chief
Afraid of the mirror? The sacrifices you might have to make to lead a healthier lifestyle? The water?

The women’s swimming and diving team can probably help. Starting early on in the fall, continuing through their season in the winter and going all the way through the spring semester, the women’s swimming and diving team has participated in several community events this year, organized to use the burgeoning group of student-athletes at Amherst to help the broader community.

“I think we’ve realized that as such a big team on campus, we are not only a group with the potential to do a lot with the Amherst community, but also a group that has an obligation to be involved,” explained Susannah Rudel ’12. She, alongside teammates Andrea Jensen ’11 and Becca Thompson ’12, helped to organize this year’s Ted Mullin “Hour of Power” event.

Now in its fourth year, the event was named in honor of the fallen Charleton College swimmer after he lost his battle with sarcoma. Over 100 teams dipped into their respective pools and swam continuously at a pre-determined time this year, raising awareness about the disease, as well as collecting donations. The Jeffs organized the sale of “Cancer Sucks” t-shirts at Keefe to tackle their twin goals, and even offered all participating NESCAC teams “Hour of Power” swim caps. In total, the NESCAC raised $4,200 for sarcoma awareness measures, which swelled to $42,000 after the Univ. of Chicago matched the donations.

Just as important, the Jeffs stepped into leadership roles on campus, as Jensen, Rudel and Thompson also organized a nutrition panel and discussion to help shed light on some of the issues that underlie personal appearance insecurities at the College. As female student-athletes, the trio had more experience than most balancing the intricacies of a healthy diet, while at the same time consuming enough carbohydrates, proteins and calories to match the amount of energy they spent during practice and games.

“I think it’s really important to spend time with your teammates — not just in a competitive environment like the pool and the weight room, and not even on campus — outside, with other members of the Amherst community,” said first-year Keegan Watters.

The swim team reached out to both the Student Health Educators (SHEs) and dozens of other female student-athletes on campus to ensure the broadest possible outreach to the student body.

Taking a cue from First Lady Michelle Obama, the swim team also organized “Let’s Move Amherst Elementary,” an activities fair to encourage increased activity amongst students at the local elementary school, in addition to the swim lessons they had been holding afterschool with youngsters from the Crocker Farm Elementary School.

LeFrak Gymnasium was abuzz on April 3 with athletes mixing in with their younger counterparts at different stations, which included aerobics, yoga and jump rope. “Let’s Move Amherst Elementary” brought together a bevy of students (and their parents) from the local school system in an effort to use Amherst’s student-athletes as guides for healthier lifestyle choices.

The funding and volunteers from outside of the College for the fair came from “two women who are mothers of elementary school children and are actively involved in the community,” said Rudel.  She went on to explain that “as for the student athlete volunteers from Amherst, we used the network of captains, and we received a great response from teams who were willing to help run stations at the event.”

“In general, [the schoolchildren] tend to look up to college kids and think it’s fun to spend time with us, even it’s for an hour or two a week,” explained Watters.

In fact, in addition to providing swim lessons to elementary school students, the team usually also volunteers its time assisting the Crocker Farms school with their fund-raisers, including carnivals.

Issue 22, Submitted 2011-04-13 20:08:02