- Cullman, Alabama

January 11, 2014

LOCAL SPORTS: Polar Bear Plunge still blast despite warm temps

By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — Cloudy skies gave way to sunshine. Temperatures rose all the way to the low 60s. And best of all, no rain or thunderstorms.

Perfect weather for most outdoor activities but kryptonite for Saturday’s Frosty 5K and Polar Bear Plunge at the Cullman Wellness and Aquatics Center.

However, despite less than ideal conditions for the wintry event, more than 250 people were on hand to participate in this year’s festivities.

“Yeah, it's the Frosty 5K and Polar Bear Plunge,” said Waid Harbison, marketing director for Cullman City Parks and Recreation. “A lot of people have that expectation of running and swimming in 20- to 30-degree weather, and sometimes they do. The weather plays into it, but people still like to come out here and do it. It was still a great day overall.”

The water temperature was still pretty cold, sitting at a chilly 42 degrees just seconds before swimmers took their dive. During last year’s event, the water was an even warmer 50 degrees.

For Jordan Cheatham, of Chelsea, it didn’t really matter what the temperature reading spit out before her plunge.

“It was so cold,” she said. “I was just like 'Jump!' It was a such a shock, and I couldn't speak. But after that, I was fine. It was my first time to do it, and it was something fun to do.”

People of all ages — as has been customary in the event’s five-year run — were out in brave force to test the waters.

Among the group of 40 or so participants was 9-year-old Olivia Shelton. She and a friend made a pact to traverse the frigid pool together. It’s unlikely to become a forgettable experience any time soon.

“It was freezing,” she said shortly after exiting the pool. “When I jumped in there, I didn't think I was going to make it, but I would definitely do it again.”

While Shelton and Cheatham were both first-time participants in the blustery plunge, Cullman’s own Jeff Evans was back at it for the fifth time in as many years.

He took his first plunge back in 2010, when he said the water temperature was a teeth-chattering 6 degrees.

“We had to break up the ice in the pool,” Evans said with a laugh. “So it wasn't as bad today. Still pretty cold. Had it taken place last weekend, though, I don't think many people would have signed up for it.”

Why does Evans continue to torture himself with the plunge?

“I just love it,” he said. “The thrill, the excitement. It helps out the Parks and Rec Department as well.”

Following the event, more than $1,500 in door prizes were doled out to registered runners and swimmers. Among those gifts were a 50-inch LED television and an iPad Mini.

“All in all, we had a good turnout,” Harbison said. “People want to win that free membership. They had fun with it.”

St. Bernard cross country stars Ayleana Mami and Jaden Edge finished second and third, respectively, in the overall results in the 5K. Fellow Saints Ivy Edge took home first in the 12-and-under group, while Leahrose Mami grabbed second in the 13-19 division.

On the boys’ side, St. Bernard’s Oscar Perez — third overall — and Steven Mami — second in the 13-19 group — also earned medals for their timely runs.


% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at