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Taking a freezing dip for a good cause

Juneau foursome captures Pennock Island Challenge

Posted: Thursday, August 17, 2006

While Team Whale Bait - consisting of Juneau's Scott Griffin, Carrie DeMay, Laurie Lucas and Kristin Jones - won the four-person relay event of the Pennock Island Challenge swim race on Aug. 6, the real winners are the beneficiaries of this charity event.

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The local foursome completed the race around Pennock Island, located south of Ketchikan, in a time of 3 hours and 14 minutes.

"Most of that money stays right here in Southeast to help kids with diabetes attend camps," said Kathy Schulz, whose husband, Willie, started the event two years ago.

This frigid ocean race consists of an 8-mile long lap around Pennock Island, which is located just south of Ketchikan. Four-person teams swim in successive half-hour legs for one rotation then switch to 10-minute legs until the finish.

Web link

For more on the Pennock Island Challenge, check out www.alaskateamada.com

Most swimmers wear wetsuits, to keep their bodies from turning into icicles . There are the purists though, like individual women's winner Michelle Macy and race founder Willie Schulz, who competed in Speedos.

Although there is plenty of competitive spirit, the race is more of a personal test of endurance as swimmers concern themselves more about completing the long ocean swim rather than posting the fastest time.

As with most events centered around an unusual sporting feat, it starts with a story.

In 2004, Willie Schulz returned to his hometown of Ketchikan for his 20-year high school reunion. An avid ocean swimmer who was living in San Diego at the time, he decided to do something memorable with his trip back home - swim around Pennock Island.

Familiar with collecting pledges for other ocean races in Southern California, he raised $5,000 for charity for his icy swim. The feat attracted the attention of locals and other Southeast swimmers.

The popular event evolved into the Pennock Island Challenge last year as 24 people competed for a good cause. This year, 21 swimmers braved the 58-degree water.

"It started with Willie," said Gretchen Klein, who helped coordinate the event, "but as word spread we really tapped into a whole new arena of people.



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