Open Swim, Open Hearts
Swim Across America
Ten Cal women's water polo student-athletes swam two miles in the San Francisco Bay as part of a fundraiser for pediatric cancer research.

Open Swim, Open Hearts

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Ten Cal women's water polo players braved the freezing waters of the San Francisco Bay to raise money for pediatric cancer research last month as part of an open water swim put on by Swim Across America, a nonprofit organization aimed at raising funds within the aquatics community.
 
On September 22nd, Grace Morgan, Sofia Rivas, Sarah Siepker, Madison Tagg, Lauren Charter, Hannah DeRose, Cassidy Ball, Claire Sonne, Georgia Gilmore and Kitty Lynn Joustra each made the two-mile swim that started under the Golden Gate Bridge and ended at Little Marina Green.
 
San Francisco is one of 20 chapters of Swim Across America, with each chapter working toward a different cause. Last month's swim saw all proceeds go toward lifesaving research at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital San Francisco Survivors of Childhood Cancer Program.

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Siepker said the initial jump off the boat into the water was "exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time. I was so excited to be there with my teammates swimming for a great cause, but I was still nervous to swim in open water for the first time." Siepker was not the only one. DeRose, Charter, Gilmore, Joustra and Tagg also jumped into open ocean for the first time.
 
In the days leading up to the swim, the players passed around a ball at practice and had teammates sign names of people in their lives who had been affected by cancer. Unfortunately, the ball filled up quickly. Cal assistant coach Heather Petri also brought the ball to the UCSF Benioff San Francisco Hospital, where she had patients sign their names. The Bears brought this ball with them on the boat and swam the entire two miles passing it back and forth.
 
Gilmore's mother, Carla, beat breast cancer in 2011. Unfortunately, it came back in her spine last year, but she is fighting hard and doing well.
 
"My favorite moment from the swim was holding the ball with my mom's name on it under the bridge," Gilmore said. "It was an unreal and incredible moment. It made me realize even more how special this event was because I was doing it for her."
 
120949The group finished the swim in about 45 minutes. Collectively, they agreed that it had been one of the hardest things any of them had done.
 
When asked what was going through her head while stroking through the water, Sonne said "I felt nervous, excited, inspired, and at times freezing, but most of all, I felt overwhelming love for my team and for all of those surrounding us fighting for their lives. What an unforgettable experience."
 

At the finish line, Cal's players came out of the water and were greeted by cheering teammates, friends and family. The rest of the Cal women's water polo team had turned out to cheer their teammates on and congratulate them at the finish line.
 
"Swimming up to the finish line and seeing our friends and family was my favorite moment from the swim," Rivas said. "The energy they brought was incredible. It felt like we had won a championship."

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The team hosted a clinic in August, and all the proceeds went toward last month's swim. The clinic raised $6,095, and ultimately the team raised $10,085 for the cause.
 
"It was awesome to finish what we started, starting with the camp that raised the money for us to participate and coming out of the water all together," DeRose said. "Knowing that we all overcame the challenges together, I couldn't help but come out with a smile. Then seeing and hearing everyone cheering for us was an amazing feeling."

You can still make a donation through the Cal women's water polo program by clicking here.

 
 
 
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