Last Friday night, UC Davis students and community members gathered at the Recreational Pool for an evening of music, night swimming and competitive water events.
The “Midnight Splash” lasted from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. and attracted approximately 500 swimsuit wearing visitors, eager for the night’s activities that included an intramural belly flop contest – a crowd favorite.
“We haven’t done anything like this at the Rec Pool for a very long time … we were very excited to give it a try, and we were very pleased with how it turned out,” said Janna Tolla, assistant director of aquatics, student development and risk management at the Rec Pool.
“The basic idea came from ‘how do we get students to come to the pool during the summer? What can we do as something that will be engaging and interesting to students in the summer?'”
The Doublelion Band, a local music group, started the night with live reggae on the west pool deck.
“I thought the band was fantastic, because there was actually a live band at the Rec Pool,” said Brian Goldberg, a recent UC Davis alumnus. “Reggae at the pool was a good combination … the event should definitely be repeated.”
Visitors arrived gradually at the pool throughout the band’s performance, which lasted until 10:30 p.m. Many students jumped into the heated water for some casual swimming with friends; others socialized on the patio areas and took advantage of the cool summer night.
Rec Pool employees, working with Aggie Hosts, roamed the grounds to assure the event went smoothly. Tolla said extra precautions were taken to make sure students were safe, with six lifeguards on watch throughout the night.
Aaron Pecho, a Rec Pool lifeguard and senior human development major, helped supervise and also acted as MC for the night’s activities. Pecho said Midnight Splash was well staffed and safe, with only minor problems.
“There were definitely some issues given the night situation that you wouldn’t have normally during the day. Night lifeguarding itself is a challenge. Given that it [was] a Friday night – prime time from coming back from the bars – we had a few drunk participants, a few that were rambunctious and a little more rowdy than usual,” Pecho said.
Kayak races began at 10:30 p.m. Eighteen contestants, donning helmets and fiberglass paddles, raced around the perimeter of the pool in three separate heats with six individuals each. A final run with each of the previous winners decided the champion. Many of the competitors had trouble maneuvering the inflatable kayaks, which were sensitive to the direction of paddle strokes.
“[It was] fairly squirrelly, particularly at the bottleneck around the island of the pool,” Tolla said. “It was slightly more comedy-based rather than skill based.“
The IM belly flop contest, which many students said was their favorite event, began at 11 p.m. Volunteer judges rated contestants‘ technique, while a large crowd both in and out of the pool cheered them on.
Joey Citelli, a junior political science and communications double major, won the event after a tie-breaker. He attributed his win to a crowd-pleasing back-flip and belly flop combination.
“I was just messing around with my friends at the pool one day, and I learned how to do a back flip with a belly flop, so I thought why not tonight?” Citelli said. “Doing it under the lights in the middle of the night was kind of cool, [and] it was a cool feeling being out there with everyone watching you.”
The winners of each competition received an IM champion t-shirt and a coveted spot on the IM Wall of Fame at the Activities and Recreation Center.
Both organizers and participants called Midnight Splash a big success. Tolla stated that she would have considered the event, which was planned on fairly short notice due to delays in university and city approval, a success if over a hundred people showed up.
Tolla said she attributes that success to the event created through Facebook – which had nearly 2,000 invites.
“We didn’t really advertise in any other way,” said Tolla, who said she was “blown away” by the publicity generated through the website.
ANDRE LEE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.