Locals hop into 24th annual Polar Bear Plunge
By LYNETTE SOWELL
With the water temperature hovering at 54 degrees – not much warmer than the air temperature – approximately 100 individuals participated in the 24th annual Polar Bear Plunge at Copperas Cove City Park pool on Saturday morning.
The annual event draws a variety of locals age 10 years and up, and one of them is John Gallen, who has participated each year since its beginning.
Gallen said the tradition for him began as a way to support the annual winter event, which began during the time that Gallen himself served on the Copperas Cove city council.
“It’s something for us to do in the winter and I enjoy supporting it every year,” said Gallen, who stood side-by-side with Ron Prax, who likewise has taken the plunge each year, except for one. The two sported sweatshirts from the 2011 Polar Bear Plunge.
Prior to the plunge itself, brave souls competed in a treading water contest to see who could last the longest, as well as half a dozen or so who competed in a belly flop contest to see who could make the biggest splash.
Ashley Wilson, Special Events Coordinator for the city’s Parks & Recreation Department, was pleased with the turnout for both the plunge itself and for the annual 5K Run to the Polar Bear Plunge which started at 8 a.m., which was completed with awards begin distributed prior to the plunge.
A total of 370 registered for the 5K, with 320 participating in the event. The youngest participant was five years old, and the oldest, 77.
“It was a really good turnout, especially for the weather. Last year was colder but this year it’s warmed up and a little bit drizzling,” said Wilson. “We have some for the 5K who will stay and do the plunge. But then we do have people that will do the plunge that are not here for 5k.”
This year, a number of vendors were on hand to include Orangetheory Fitness, 5W Supplement Warehouse, Allied Therapies, Texas Farm Bureau, Chick-fil-A, Raising Cane’s, and a newcomer – Coffee Saloon mobile coffee truck.
Saturday’s race marked the first Centex Race Series race/event of 2023. Overall winners were: Charles Cook, age 27, of Fort Hood, with a chip time of 17:40.4, and Keili Dorn, 25, of Irvine, Cal., with a chip time of 18:17.0. The top finisher from Copperas Cove was 15-year-old Jeremiah Calderon with a time of 18:46.1, who finished 4th place overall.
Next on the calendar is the AJ Howard Memorial 5K and 2-person Relay on Feb. 18 in Belton.