Northwestern's women's swimmers volunteered as Swim Angels at the 2011 Big Shoulders Open Water Swim Classic 5K on Saturday, Sept. 10. The race featured a two-lap course in Lake Michigan beginning at the Ohio Street Beach; NU men's swimmer Charlie Rimkus won the men's portion of the 20th anniversary edition in 2010.
The organizers of the race instituted a "Swim Angel" program beginning this year, and Northwestern quickly agreed to participate to take advantage of being visible at a National event in a sport getting a big push ahead of an Olympic year. Swim Angels buddy up with swimmers who need encouragement to help them complete the race.
"The Big Shoulders race was a fantastic opportunity for our team to be a
part of a larger swimming community and experience a different side of
the sport we love," Northwestern team captain Meghan Cavanaugh said. "It was great for team bonding and wonderful
exposure for the Northwestern Women's Swimming team!"
In addition to the current Wildcats, Ellis herself and alums such as NU 100 fly record-holder Katie Braun served as Angels. Only a few participants elected to swim with an Angel, leading many of the Wildcats to enter the water en masse behind the pack and team up with any swimmers who needed help along the way.
One particular participant requested a buddy and senior Jenny Wilson swam alongside her. The racer had never competed in an open water 5K swim before and had set a goal time for herself of 3.5 hours -- a long time to be in waters with temperatures of 64-65 degrees. Several Wildcats teamed up during the back half of the race to help her finish, which she did in 2.75 hours -- way under her goal time. The majority of the Northwestern team was on the beach waiting for her at the finish, cheering and high-fiving her as she left the water in a very emotional and triumphant scene.
After the race, Northwestern's Angels turned into a clean-up crew, helping to break down the set-up and clear the beach of refuse.
Also of note:
Northwestern graduate, world open water champion and 10-time U.S. open water champion Erica Rose finished second overall in the race for the women -- while wearing a cast. Rose previously won the race three-straight years from 2007-09 before taking second a year ago. Earlier this year, she won the 28.5 mile Manhattan Island Swim, which is a circumnavigation of Manhattan Island in New York.