Students "Get Their Float On" at the Waterfront

Friday, April 27 marked the end of classes for the Spring 2012 semester at St. Mary’s, and many students took advantage of the sunny clear blue skies and invigorating wind to celebrate spring before finals week at the Sailing Club’s bi-annual “Get Your Float On” event.

Sunbathing, sailing, windsurfing, and kayaking were encouraged as students swarmed the James P. Muldoon River Center and Waterfront on Friday afternoon. Members of the Student Education Association decorated many a sunbather with henna tattoos, which browned in the sun before being chipped away to reveal an orange design. Those who were sailing-inclined reveled in the great wind that was present, and most of the waterfront’s sailboats were in use during the event.

The Sailing Club’s large charcoal grill was in constant use throughout the afternoon, and it peppered the wind with delicious-smelling smoke as the grillers dished out hamburgers, veggie burgers, and hot dogs to hungry students, who chowed down on the chips and sodas that were also provided.

Sophomore Jemarc Van-Axinto said of the event, “I think it’s a really nice way to get out to the watefront–but of course we’re St. Mary’s students, so we could do this anytime. Thankfully it’s a nice day, and it’s great that we have a sponsored event that gives us an excuse to come down. I know a lot of people from North Campus who are grateful to come hang out at the river like we’re supposed to.”

Men's And Women's Swimming Undefeated

Both men’s and women’s Swimming won their first meets, making them undefeated as they prepare for home meets on Friday November 4th against Randolph-Macon College at 4:00 p.m. and Saturday November 5th against Goucher College at 1 p.m.

Junior Joanna Purich explained the nature of swim meets:“First, there’s a relay with four people on each relay team. Then, I believe there are 10 different individual events, and then at the end we have another relay.”

Both teams swam against Catholic before swimming against Hood College and Marymount in a tri-meet. Sophomore Hanna Rizkallah described tri-meets simply by saying, “Usually we have dual meet, so it’s just two teams competing, but in this case there were three teams competing”

Sophomore Claire Huckenpoehler explained one thing she did not like about tri-meets, saying, “Tri wasn’t an ideal situation because not everyone got a chance to swim because there were only two lanes to swim per team instead of three.”

However, the possibility of all the girls swimming in a meet is slim considering the size of the team. Purich commented saying, “We have tons and tons of girls so not everyone gets to swim, but it also makes us more competitive and helps us to be better.” Likewise, the men’s team has a lot more men than usual, Purich said, “With all the freshman that have come in, the guy’s team is almost a full team.”

Purich, Rizkallah, and Huckenpoehler all mentioned the importance of first-years on the team, with Rizkallah specifically saying, “We have a lot of good freshman, a lot of good fresh talent, and we all came together as a team with the new freshman.” Rizkallah was happy with the team’s morale saying, “We all were really good at getting up and cheering when other people were swimming.”

The Freshman on the women’s team did place well. In Even in events where other St. Mary’s students placed first, a first year often placed second. First year Brooke Raab picked up three wins for the team in events including the 100 butterfly and the 200 Freestyle. Another First year, Kelsey Abernathy, came in second behind Raab in the 100 Butterfly. Elaina Kohles, another freshman, placed third in the 100 Freestyle.

Likewise Freshmen on the men’s team contributed to an impressive showing. First year Ben Immink came in second in the 200 freestyle after Junior Billy DeBoissiere. Jackson Holden, another first year, came in second in 500 Freestyle. Dylan Cope ’15 also placed second in the 100 backstroke and the 1000 freestyle.

However, like most athletic events, there usually is something to work on in practice. Even with their undefeated record, Huckenpoehler said, “We had a good start but there are always things we need to work on.” Rizkallah said, “Our coach said our starts and turns could get better, so we need to still work as individuals, but as a whole I think we are pretty good.”

Rizkallah explained an advantage in the upcoming meets, saying, “I think we’ll do really well, we have home field advantage. You always do better at your home pool. And we have a really nice pool with plenty of space for teams to warm up and cool down, and I think that’s really important with swimming.”

All three swimmers seemed excited about the season, with Huckenpoehler saying, “It’s really positive, we’re all really motivated, we got a good group of people together.” Purich also commented, saying, “It’s still really early in the season, and people were swimming really good times, so we’ve got a lot of good potential this year.”

Great Bamboo Boat Race is Successful

On Saturday Oct. 1, 2011, the annual “Great Bamboo Boat Race” was held during Hawktoberfest at Family Weekend. Out of the 15 teams registered, 13 participated in three separate heats, the two preliminary races and the final. The teams had three hours to cobble together a seaworthy vessel out of raw materials that could carry them to victory.

According to the “Great Bamboo Boat Race” website, each team was given a construction kit containing lengths of bamboo, plastic sheeting, twine, and duct tape with access to power tools. The team members could elicit help from friends and family, but only a maximum of six people could actually build the boats. They were captained by one or two brave souls on a triangular course next to the docks.

“I was really impressed with the construction of the boats and the perseverance of people pulling boats behind them,” said Brenda Maas, a SMCM parent who attended the event. “It was great, really exciting.”

Of the six boats in the final heat, five teams won cash prizes of $300 or less. The losing teams left empty-handed, but exhilarated by the experience. “It went well,” said Lisa Williams, a sophomore who was a builder on one of the teams. “It was just for fun.”

The five winning teams were Lost Johnson in first place, Windsurfing in second, We Grade You in third, Whorecruxes in fourth, and Ra in fifth. All of the teams who participated showed great dedication to their boats, some swimming them to the finish.

Students Celebrate River at Annual Get Your Float On

SMCM Sailing Club’s Fall Get Your Float On (GYFO) was a resounding success. Students went sailing and learned the basics of  kayaking and windsurfing.

Sailing Club Vice President Andrew Surgent took several groups of students out sailing on the College’s new Condor 300 Trimaran. Music from The Hawk Radio rolled over the waterfront while young scholars relaxed pier-side with friends. Club officers manned the grills and other students learned the rudiments of windsurfing, kayaking, and sailing on what may prove to be one of the nicest days of September 2011.

Every semester, St. Mary’s College’s Sailing Club coordinates with the Windsurfing Club, Offshore Team, and Grill Club to hold a sailing event and barbecue. “Get Your Float On is all about getting people excited about the waterfront,” said Surgent.

“The goal of the event is to get as many people out on the water or floating as you can, and the really sad thing for us is that people go four years here and graduate without going on a boat,” stated Surgent. “Maybe they’ll go kayaking once in four years but they’ll…never go out on a boat or…sail or anything like that.”

Club Treasurer Roger Ding said, “We offer sailing lessons for free. There’s a lot of people who are seniors who say, ‘Yeah, I’ve been going to St. Mary’s for four years and I’ve never learned to sail.’”
Sign-ups for sailing lessons occur at the fall and spring Club Fairs. By signing up at Club Fair, a student will have have a guaranteed spot in the lessons.

Sailing Club President Kenneth Doutt said, “We had a lot of people come down. One of the great things was that we were able to offer people rides on the waterfront’s new Trimaran, the Condor 40, and a lot of people loved the opportunity.” DelMarva Boat Sports also loaned the sailing club several of their paddle boards. Doutt observed that students really enjoyed taking the paddle boards out, “especially after the wind died down.”

The Sailing Club also holds a novice regatta after the end of sailing lessons each semester; past winners of the Novice (FJ) Regattas were awarded gift certificates to the Campus Bookstore. Surgent said a small FJ regatta may be a “coming attraction” at the spring GYFO.

Doutt also said that the spring GYFO “is generally the last day of class and it’s a great way for people to let loose and blow off some steam they have to hunker down and start studying.”

Riverfest, Fun with the Community

Last weekend, various members of the St. Mary’s community, both within the College and out, came out to celebrate the event known as Riverfest.

During the festival thrown by the St. Mary’s River Watershed Association, guests were invited to participate in a variety of entertaining and educational events while they were out at Historic St. Mary’s City. Some of the key events included the Wade In with Senator Bernie Fowler, a magic show featuring the SuperMagicMan Reggie Rice, and a booth where one could learn and observe birds of prey from around the area.

“[Riverfest] was good,” Sophomore Glenn Stanley said. “It made it seem like more of a community. There was this elementary school choir, a pirate ship, and the folks who ran it really interacted with everybody. It was real friendly.”

Sophomore Christina Callis also noticed the friendly atmosphere at Riverfest. “My experience was really positive. It was the first time I had gone to Riverfest. The atmosphere was pretty joyous,” she said.

Not all of the events occurred during the entirety of Riverfest, however, so some people who came at different times had different experiences depending on what event was being showcased at the time.

Sophomore Ashok Chandwaney, who had visited later on when Riverfest was beginning to close down, managed to have fun. He said, “I sat in the sun and it was a nice day…I ate the fragmented remains of the vegetarian sandwich.”

When asked if he would recommend people to come to Riverfest next year, Chandwaney said, “[I would] if they had more sandwiches.”

Hawktoberfest 2010: A College Athletic Celebration

Photo by Katie Henry
Photo by Katie Henry

The St. Mary’s Hawktoberfest, held last Friday through Sunday alongside the College’s Family Weekend, saw a host of activities to commemorate the past, present, and future athleticism of St. Mary’s.

While last week’s intense rainstorms postponed the 2nd Annual SMCM Hawktober Festival Golf Tournament (initially scheduled for Oct. 1) until Oct. 29, the Alumni games were in full swing during the weekend.

After the Petruccelli 5K Run on Friday, Saturday’s games included Baseball, Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse, Men’s and Women’s Swimming, Women’s Soccer, and Women’s Field Hockey. Sunday concluded the festival with Men’s and Women’s Tennis vs Alumni matches and Women’s Soccer vs Christopher Newport University.

Students, faculty, parents, and community members came out to see players old and new go head-to-head for some friendly competition and, most importantly, reunion. The return of past athletes and their families shows how strongly the College’s students are tied to this campus, and how a degree is never really the end of College life.

The weekend’s events were hosted by the College’s Alumni Association, which functions to maintain connections between the College and its graduated students.

New Dock Contributes to Sustainable Future of SMC Waterfront

Construciton on the exsisting dock (Photo by Jenny Metz)
Construciton on the exsisting dock (Photo by Jenny Metz)

The new $750,000 dock being built down on the waterfront will do more than provide extra space for dinghies, safety boats and sunbathers; its main utility will be breaking the waves that are slowly eroding the shoreline of the St. Mary’s River.

A sandy beach has already replaced the unsightly sandbags that made it seem as though the College is bracing for a flash flood. After fifteen years of deliberation and red tape, a practical solution that integrates both the human need for more dock space, and the environmental need for maintaining a near-natural habitat has been put into action and is nearing completion.

Designed as part of the College sustainability effort, and scheduled for completion at the end of September, the dock will help reclaim land lost due to erosion, which has eaten up nearly 35 feet of shoreline over the past 15 years.  Dubbed the “mini-me” of the older dock by Adam Werblow, head coach of the sailing team, it is about 60 percent smaller than its larger, older neighbor, but serves much the same purpose: saving the waterfront.

Werblow said that looking at the Waterfront,  “you can see how the beach has built up behind the old dock, and then you move over to the right and there’s virtually nothing.  This new dock will change that.” He  added later that “99 percent of this project is aimed towards three things: saving the waterfront, safety, and recreation.”

The dock’s construction involves a pier structure equipped with vertical battens, or wave screens, which extend about eight feet below the dock and break the waves down before they can reach the shore.  “This works better than say, building a rock wall, bulkhead, or marsh plantings, and gives the added convenience of having a place for the crew team to launch their boat instead of wading out into the water,” said Chip Jackson, Associate Vice President of Planning and Facilities.

A boat ramp made of stone and concrete extends out on the left side of the dock, providing easy access in and out of the water for all kinds of boats.  Floating platforms will secure 18 recreational sailboats in all by the end of next week, as well as provide a launch for the crew team.

The dock itself is only one phase of what has been dubbed “The Living Shoreline,” a project that includes planting grasses and other vegetation along the shore by Route 5.  These grasses, coupled with rocks that extend into the water, will “help filter the oil and other pollutants that runoff from the street,” said Werblow.  Those who feel like exploring this shoreline-under-construction will come across a new beach in front of the boat house, another practical result from the dock.

The construction effort has had its problems, though.  The remaining decking needed for the last half of the dock cannot be put in because the budget came up $30,000 short.  However, because the building permit does last for another three years, the College has time to raise those funds.

In addition to building the new dock, the construction crew is also replacing half of the old dock.  The first dock, built in the 50s, was “T” shaped and ran straight out into the water.  The college eventually added on to it in the 70s, giving it the “L” shape we see today. The older part was “on its way out” according to Werblow, and in desperate need of repair.  Future repairs to the old dock will include new decking on the latter half of the “L.”

While the dock is both functional for recreational purposes, The Living Shoreline plan will lead to greater environmental health.  “We needed to find a solution that would preserve the shoreline in a sustainable way while at the same time providing safe and easy access to the water,” said Jackson. “The unique combination of wave screen, crew launching platform, selective areas of marsh creation and limited amounts of rock will ensure that the shoreline is well protected while allowing providing an excellent recreational area.”

Polar Bear Splash Leaves Students Cold, Wounded

Students and staff charge into the frigid waters of the St. Mary’s River at this year’s Polar Bear Splash. (Photo by Brendan O’Hara)
Students and staff charge into the frigid waters of the St. Mary’s River at this year’s Polar Bear Splash. (Photo by Brendan O’Hara)

On Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009, over 150 students and faculty members  participated in St. Mary’s third annual Polar Bear Splash. Over 200 other students and onlookers cheered on their friends as they prepared to make the plunge.

The College’s Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) passed out waivers in order to protect themselves from any liability if injuries should occur before participants in the event were allowed to jump in. The result saw four students hospitalized, and numerous others in need of serious medical attention.

The Polar Bear Splash was started by SEAC in January of 2007 with hopes of raising awareness about global climate change and its effects. Each year since then, the event has attracted a growing number of students as well as media and has been successful. This year, in addition to raising awareness about climate change and green initiatives like the Green Power Referendum, SEAC also raised some green in order to fund their trip to Power Shift 2009, a nation-wide youth meeting in Washington D.C. committed to solving the climate crisis.

“Today is ridiculously windy, but it’s worth it,” senior Marjorie Foley said just moments before she took the plunge. “They’re doing a fundraiser!”
While Foley was being subtle about just how cold it was, even before she ran into the 38 degree water, Patrick Gilbert complained that it was “colder than a witch’s tit” outside. “Everything about it is cold,” he continued, “but we’re raising awareness about Global warming.”

Sustainability fellow, alumna, and participant in past Polar Bear Splashes, Rachel Clement feels that one of the great things about the Polar Bear Splash is that “it gives students an opportunity to make a strong statement to the campus, surrounding community, and the local, regional, and national media that we know and care about stopping climate change, and are willing to jump into a freezing river for the cause.”

“I’ve always wanted to do it,” a soaking senior Kait Gruber remarked just moments after the polar bear splash ended. “We’re really affecting the planet a lot more than we think, and it really is important to raise awareness about global warming.” Seconds after this statement, Kait had to limp away because she discovered the bottom of her feet were severely cut and bleeding profusely.

Countless participants of the splash this year were injured as a result of the oyster shells, rocks, bottle glass and other debris that polluted the sand outside of the new river center. Leading member of SEAC and senior, Shane Hall feels “terrible for all those people who came out to have a fun time showing their commitment to stopping climate change who were injured” especially because of the fact that in previous years the splash has incurred only a few injuries.“Because of how safe the former two splashes were, even for people who refused to wear shoes, we did not anticipate the amount of injuries that occurred.”

“While SEAC repeatedly communicated to the school community that participants should bring a towel and wear shoes, unfortunately many people did not heed this warning,” Hall added. “The other problem is many people interpreted “shoes” to mean flip-flops, which come off easily when you sprint in the water.”

“I was running barefoot – stupid, I know,” recalled sophomore Jamie Phillips about his experience in the polar bear splash a week later,  “but I know people who were wearing shoes that still got cut up from the ankle up.” Phillips was outraged as he was “sent away by the Health Center when [he] requested crutches and a brief check-up.”

Because the local hospital had already opened a case for the other students, the health center did not want to “get involved,” said Phillips. “I had to buy my own medical prescriptions out of pocket,” he laments about the situation.

Even though he was one of the few who actually received medical care, Phillips was unable to walk from Thursday night to Monday evening. As a result, he missed nearly a week of classes, and remains still with a limp, a wound to remember deep within his feet, and a hole in his pocket. Jamie is not alone, however, as many students are still feeling the effects of the Polar Bear Splash of 2009.

“I’m still healing,” Gruber said about her injuries from that day.

“We should have done more,” said  Hall on behalf of SEAC, but he also contended that while greater safety measures are a must, “I’m positive the hardy, dedicated students of St. Mary’s will be ready to splash again next winter.”

However, some students, including Phillips feel as though it we might just be better leaving the splashing to the Polar Bears. Phillips said, “It’s not well-publicized or dynamic enough of an event for me to want to go down and get injured on a cold February day.”