By Reggie Jarrett
Editor, Jax Air News
An estimated 50 people turned out to compete in the first Polar Plunge 5K aboard Naval Air Station Jacksonville Jan. 27. The fun run began and ended at the base's outdoor swimming pool, and culminated in many of the participants jumping into the pool's 55 degree water.
The runners had differing opinions on the cold water. "It was a little shock at the end of the run," said first place finisher Ryan Collins. "But it was refreshing."
ABH1 Stephanie Matson, who is stationed aboard USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) at Naval Station Mayport, disagreed. "I thought it was going to be nice," she said. "But it was quite painful."
Both agreed the run and the plunge was a lot of fun.
That was the opinion of most of the runners according to MWR Fitness Director Jill Sheppard. "I think it went great," she said. "We got a lot of good feedback. Everyone said it was a great run."
Sheppard hoped the run inspires participants to achieve other goals they have set for themselves for the new year. "I hope the cold water shocks them into completing resolutions they made."
Another inspiring part of the event was retired United States Air Force Lt. Col. Barry Bridger, who spoke to the crowd of his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Bridger spent six years in captivity at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" from 1967 to 1973.
After speaking to the group as a whole before the run, Bridger also spoke to many people individually. Young Sailors were especially honored to speak with him, such as AWOAN Samuel Kempf and AWOAN Jay Thornton both with Patrol Squadron 30.
The 5K run started soon after Bridger spoke and was an untimed fun run. The first female to cross the finish line was 15-year-old Liliana Angulo. The ninth grader at Bishop Snyder High School is already a veteran competitive runner who has competed in 38 triathlons. Angulo is thinking about joining the Coast Guard when she graduates high school.
Another young participant had mixed emotions about the 5K run and polar plunge. Four-year old Colin Matson said he had fun, but when asked if he would do it again he shook his head and said "no."