The hardest part, said Matt Casillas, a sophomore from Georgia Tech who grew up in Southern California, was taking his shoes off.
It was well below 20 degrees in Christiansburg, Va., their swim meet with Virginia Tech and the University of Kentucky had been canceled because of the storm, and just walking outside the hotel in warm-up gear was painful.
The shoes came off. “Once my feet got in the snow it was really cold,” he said. “And from there it just went downhill.”
The night before, when flakes began to fall, they had joked that they should make snow angels in their Speedos. Then one of them suggested swimming in the snow, another suggested racing, and Aidan Pastel, a freshman majoring in aerospace engineering, said, “We should do a relay.”
“Even if I accomplish nothing else in this life,” Casillas said, “I did something fun.”
Also because it was definitely a better idea than diving, which is what he normally does. (In water, typically.) They had eyed the big banks of snow piled up by plows, but they were frozen and hard. Not appealing.
“It was surprising that we could fly as far as we did,” Pastel said. “I had fun doing it — other than the very, very cold uncomfortableness.”
The very, very cold uncomfortableness was pretty vivid for Casillas, who couldn’t find his clothes and shoes after the swim; nor could he feel his toes or fingers. The first three guys ran in a back door of the hotel and jumped into hot baths — which was painful in its own way — but Pastel, who raced last, didn’t know where they had gone.
It was probably not the best decision they’d ever made, Pastel said. The coaches might not have been hoping that their Division I athletes would aspire to this.
But as he sped, hobbling on numb feet, in his Speedo through the front door of the hotel, guests in the lobby cracked up.
The coaches were sitting there, too.
“Don’t worry,” Pastel told them. “We won!”