“This is the craziest thing I’ve ever done,” so said Grand Haven High School senior Jamie Gretzinger as she sat dripping wet and shivering in the parking lot at Grand Haven City Beach on Wednesday morning.
Moments earlier, Gretzinger and the rest of the Outdoor Education class at GHHS had shrugged out of their warm clothes and dashed into an icy Lake Michigan for the class’ annual polar plunge.
The polar plunge began more than 10 years ago, according to teacher Derek Warner, who actually took the plunge twice Wednesday — once with his morning class and again with his afternoon group.
“The big reason why we do this is, I want to put them in a situation that’s safe, but where they don’t want to do it,” he explained. “They know it’s going to hurt, it’s going to be miserable, but it gives them an opportunity to really challenge themselves and do something they don’t want to do.
“There’s been this build-up all week,” Warner added. “It’s cold, it’s snowy, it’s going to be terrible … but once they get out of the water, they’re all laughing and high-fiving.”
Elliott Lannin said the reality of the plunge hit home as they rounded the corner from Lake Avenue onto Harbor Drive and saw the Lake Michigan waves crashing to the shore.
“The anticipation was pretty bad,” he said. “We were driving down to the beach and as soon as we saw the water, we were like, ‘Oh, crap.’ As soon as I hit the water, I just froze for a second, then I just dove in. I think the run back to the car was the worst.”
“It was amazing,” added Elijah Copodo. “Running up, saying go, jumping into the water, everything just froze, everything slowed down. Then it really clicked in and it was like, ‘Oh, no, get back into the van!’
“I’m happy I did it,” he added. “It was amazing.”
Riley Ames called the polar plunge “a once-in-a lifetime thing to do with your class, but I’m freezing.”