With the recent close of the 2012 Olympic games, names like Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, Ryan Lochte and Allison Schmitt have become topics of household discussion. But on our own shores here in Huntington we have a local swimming team, the West Neck Pod, who have pulled off impressive swimming feats of their very own.
The West Neck Pod is a group of swimmers who swim regularly in the open waters of Cold Spring Harbor and The Long Island Sound. The team comprises people of all levels and came about because of one common interest, the love of swimming.
Team organizer Carol Moore says, “Our group comprises both competitive and recreational, long distance and sprint distance, fast and slow swimmers, and we welcome ‘newbies’ as well. We have evolved over the last several years from a loose ‘every-swimmer-for-himself’ association to a close-knit, cohesive community, tied together through our regular email exchanges ("The Water-Log"), our blog ("The Water-Blog") and our Facebook page.”
The team practices on a daily basis swimming weekday mornings at 6:30 and weekends at 8. Their season starts at the end of May and they swim into October, sometimes November, and due to unseasonably warm temperatures last winter, even December.
Last year Pod members organized the Huntington/Cold Spring Harbor 1 and 2 Mile Swim at West Neck Beach, gathering 179 swimmers. This year nearly 250 swimmers attended the Second Annual West Neck Swim and the Pod has planned a 5K/5-Mile swim for Aug. 25.
The swim team swims for fun and for exercise but they also swim for a cause. On Aug. 11 they raised more than $18,000 for local cancer research in the Sound-to-Cove Swim Across America fundraiser. Although weather forced the event indoors at the Nassau County Aquatic Center about 16 members of the Pod swam the full 5K (3.1 miles) distance in the 25M pool.
The funds raised will help support Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Fighting Chance, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, MIRACLE Building at Mercy Medical Center, the Children's Hospital at Montefiore, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
The swim was a personal one as Moore noted, “Like all families, our Pod-family has been touched by cancer, and our team included three cancer survivors.”
Their Aug. 4 swim was also a commemorative swim and something that meant something to them. It marked the one-month anniversary of the deaths of local children in the July 4 boat sinking that took the lives of Harlie Treanor, Victoria Gaines, and David Aureliano. The Pod made it their mission to swim to the iron marker in the center of the channel near the site of the drowning and adorn a wreath on top of the structure in tribute to those children whose lives were lost that day in that very harbor.
“That channel marker in the middle of our harbor will now always seem a headstone to the three children trapped in the boat's cabin, whose lives ended there in our beloved harbor, within sight of the route that we traverse routinely in our daily swims,” says Moore in her blog documenting the event.
The Pod had always wanted to do an open swim out to the marker however the path seemed too treacherous with heavy boat travel on the course, but they took on the feat because placing a wreath in honor of the children was something that they felt they needed to do since they perished in the very water they call home.
The team acknowledges the dangers of open swim and safety always comes first, that is why they swim in a group and they always wear brightly colored bathing caps for visibility.
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“We recognize that open-water swimming is inherently dangerous, and that everyone who swims ‘outside the lines’ does so at their own risk, but we are committed to ensuring that every open-water swimming experience is as safe as possible. Many of our swimmers tow the ‘SaferSwimmer’ flotation device which helps make swimmers visible to boaters and other watercraft and provides flotation assistance if needed, and we urge all open-water swimmers to buy one and use it every time they swim.”
Moore added, “The Pod welcomes all swimmers, and we are happy to share our venue, knowledge and experience, but urge all newcomers to know their limits, and to swim only as far as they comfortably and safely can.”