It might have been a little chilly for a dip in the James River first thing Monday morning, but it’s never too early to learn.

Students from Trinity Episcopal School participated in a “swim to school day” by swimming or paddling 1 mile up the James River in water that was about 68 degrees.

Swim to school was dreamed up by Ned Trice, a biology teacher who also helps with the Trinity outdoors program. People do it in other cities, he thought, so why not Richmond?

“I came up with the idea for swim to school last year because I have always wanted to commute to work by water,” Trice said. “Trinity is on the water and we should make it a priority to utilize the resource as much as we can.”

The school is located at the far western tip of the city along the boundary with Chesterfield County, less than 1,000 feet from the river.

Last year, there was a swim from a student’s home on the north bank to the south bank before going to school. The students had to change the course because the family moved.

“We have a great group of students who are willing to come out early and try a new experience,” he said. “Getting out in a setting as pretty as the river early in the morning and getting your heart rate up is hard to beat.”

The swim began at about 7:15 a.m. and took about 30 minutes. Students accessed the James by way of docks with permission from school families located along Cherokee Road.

There were 26 students who took on the river swim challenge, including 11 who swam a mile along the south bank of the river in a calm and flat section of the James, starting just up river from Bosher’s Dam. The others swam about half that distance.

All wore bright pink swim caps to be visible. They tried their best to stay together and kept encouraging each other to keep going despite the cold.

There also were about a dozen students and teachers with kayaks and stand up paddleboards who participated. Some provided a brief tow or rest for weary swimmers.

Alice Phillips, swim team coach and a science teacher at Trinity, swam with the students and felt for herself how chilly it was. “It was pretty hard because of the cold,” she said. “I think some of the kids had to prove it to themselves they could do it.”

Proving themselves physically was only part of the lesson. “We do it to be closer to the river and to enjoy the river as a team,” Phillips said. She stressed the importance of encouraging the students to appreciate nature and keeping the environment clean.

While other schools might encourage bike and walk to school days, Phillips said Trinity’s location near the James and its extensive outdoors program made the river the perfect place for an alternative transportation day.


priggan@richmond.com

(804) 649-6765

Twitter: @RigganRVA

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