Teams take plunge for Special Olympics

University of Alabama Frozen Tide hockey team coach Mike Quenneville, right, reacts as he and Frozen Tide assistant coach Ian Hebert enter the water at the Polar Plunge on Jan. 28 at Oak Mountain State Park. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Shocked expressions struck the faces of dozens of participants in the Jan. 28 Law Enforcement Torch Run Polar Plunge as they hit the frigid water of the Oak Mountain State Park beach.

Temperatures hovered around the high 40s and low 50s during the event, which was organized by the Alabama Law Enforcement Torch Run organization and drew teams ranging from law enforcement agencies to sports organizations.

During the weeks leading up to the event, the teams gathered donations to support the Alabama Special Olympics. Event organizers said they raised more than $13,000 through the Polar Plunge.

During the event, plunge participants dressed in everything from professional wrestling outfits to chemical suits sprinted down the OMSP beach and into the chilly water.

“Oh, it wasn’t that bad,” Adriene Weller, a member of the Huntsville-based Dixie Derby Girls roller derby team, said as she shivered on the beach after taking the plunge.

Because Weller said she had participated in a polar plunge before in Missouri, hitting the cold water at OMSP wasn’t a big shock. But for her friend and roller derby teammate Erica Foster, it was.

“This was my fist time doing this, so it was a little cold,” Foster said with a laugh. “But it likely won’t be my last. I could see someone talking me into doing this again.”

Mike Quenneville and Ian Hebert, coach and assistant coach of the Pelham-based University of Alabama Frozen Tide hockey team, said hitting the frigid water was a little different from spending time on the ice rink.

“It was pretty chilly, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought,” Quenneville said.

Quenneville and Hebert took part in the Polar Plunge several hours after their hockey team defeated South Carolina in the Southeastern Collegiate Hockey Conference Showcase at the Pelham Civic Complex.

The hockey team began collecting for the Polar Plunge a few days before the event, and was able to gather about $1,200 in donations in three days, Quenneville said.

“I think this is a great cause for the kids,” he said.