400-plus people gathered at the Calvin Seminary late Friday afternoon, Feb. 20 for the annual Sem Pond Jump.
Middle of February, 20-degree weather, perfect time for a dip!
400-plus people gathered at the Calvin Seminary late Friday afternoon, Feb. 20 for the annual Sem Pond Jump. That number seemed even larger when packed around the little pond and filing in and out of the seminary entrance.
“I really thought numbers would be down with so many students at the (Van Noord Arena) dedication and the many other things going on,” said Norm Zylstra, the coordinator of student and young alumni programs. Turns out, though, that the event drew more participants than ever before, so many that Zylstra ran out of towels to give away as rewards.
“I had three dozen left over from last year and then ordered what we had last year, and we still ran out,” said Zylstra.
The weight of tradition
Each year in February, the Calvin alumni office asks physical plant to cut a hole in the ice that has formed over the Seminary Pond. Students, along with a few staff and faculty members, jump one-by-one into the pond to join the Cold Knight Club.
“The Sem Pond Jump is an epic Calvin tradition,” said junior Geoff Scott, “This is my third time. I’m going for that golden towel.” Most jumpers received a plain white towel after jumping. However, 29 of the students who turned out earned the coveted golden towel, reserved for four-time jumpers.
Scott, who observed that it was “like a hundred below,” proclaimed that he was jumping “because I can.” The Sem Pond Jump has humble roots. Back in 1999, 28 students pioneered the event. Among them was Matthew Rip, who would go on to become the first golden towel recipient. The next year the number dropped to 27. Now the event (formerly known as the Cold Knight Plunge), not only has record attendance, but its own Facebook page.
“The water didn’t spread like this last year, but we were just as numb,” said sophomore Haley Robinson. As the people continued to jump, water had begun to spread out from around the hole in the ice and had gradually become deeper and deeper.
“It was a little more tenuous (this year) because there was so many people on the ice that it started to crack, and with the warm weather last week we weren’t even certain that we would have enough ice, and we’d have to jump off a dock,” said Zylstra, “But the air was definitely colder. I’m just happy it wasn’t breezy.”
Sophomore Lindsey Crandle preferred this years jumping experience over last year. “Last year I had a temperature of 102,” said Crandle, “So this is better.”
Going for gold
“One woman came out (of the water), felt that her hair was dry, so she went back in, so it was pretty impressive to self-check like that. And Jared Moberg slid in head first and just about bonked his head on the ice,” said Zylstra, “So that was pretty comical as well.”
Seemingly every underclassman at the event was expressing their desire to earn the golden towel. “This is my third year in a row,” said junior Jeff Van Laar, whose response to whether or not he is coming back next year was: “For sure. You know it.”