Swim a success

Participation continues to rise for the Williams Lake Rustlers Polar Bear Swim.

Under similar mild winter temperatures, the annual event held on New Year’s Day had 150 people register, surpassing last year’s total of 110.

“I think the weather really worked with us for sure,” WLSS rugby coach Dave Julius says.

The weather hovered around the zero mark for the seventh annual event on Monday. A daily high of 2.6 degrees Celsius was recorded at the Williams Lake Airport.

The weather reached 1 degree during last year’s swim.

A total of more than $10,000 was raised for the event. WLSS raised $8,528 while Columneetza raised $1,960. The funds support youth and high school rugby in Williams Lake.

The top individual pledge earner was Travis Boivin of the Williams Lake Secondary School Stags, who managed to reach four figures with a total of $1,073 raised. Jesse Neufeld came in second with $1,000, followed by Trevor Neufeld who chipped in $700.

The fourth overall pledge earner and top female was Krystle Carpenter with $463 raised. Lindsay Barnett came in fifth at $325.

Last year Jake Ilnicki was the pledge leader with $451 raised, while a total of $6,265 was donated.

Last year’s high school challenge champions didn’t disappoint as WLSS won that title again, retaining the Rustlers bull skull trophy.

The winning team was judged based on overall performance. In addition to funds raised, the schools were judged based on costumes and school spirit. WLSS had a Celtic theme that included body painting, kilts and bagpipers leading the way. Julius says there were roughly 75 students who dressed up for the event.

The oldest participant taking the plunge was 68-year-old Gordon Abel, while Mason Fulton, 9, was the youngest person registered.

Safety was a top priority at the event, and no reports of injury were made. Swimmers took off in groups of 10 while several Rustlers stood around the hole to ensure swimmers were safe and could get out of the water.

Trucks with heated change rooms, fire pits and a concession with hot food and beverages helped keep participants warm.

Julius says the concession was busy throughout the event, which began with registration at 12 p.m. and continued with the dip beginning at 1 p.m.

After the first group of swimmers took the dip, the site began to empty with only a few participants remaining a half hour later.

Julius says the event was an overall success.

“A great time was had by all and it was really well run by the Rustlers.”

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