On Saturday, as hundreds of thousands of Americans gathered to participate in Women’s Marches across the country, the Bowdoin women’s swimming and diving team took a moment during their division meet to show solidarity with the movement. 

At the end of the meet, all female-identifying members of the four NESCAC teams—Bowdoin, Colby, Wesleyan and Trinity—were invited to partake in a mixed relay. Instead of competing as separate colleges, swimmers and divers from all teams lined up and completed their final event together. Using a variety of strokes for varying distances, the women forewent competition and swam in sync with one another for nearly five minutes before concluding the meet.

“I think it was just really cool that we got participation by almost all of the women at the meet,” said women’s captain Isabel Schwartz ’17. “It was really powerful to see everyone lined up behind the blocks, giving each other high fives at the end of the relay and seeing everyone try to swim together.” 

The four teams also chose to begin the meet with a small-scale march from the locker rooms onto the pool deck. Instead of walking out as separate teams, the women entered together, led by the teams’ captains and followed by an integrated group of swimmers and divers from all the teams. 

Once gathered on deck, the captains read a statement about the march and then had a moment of silence to honor the events of the day.

Colby women’s swimming captain Cat Padgett ’17, who spearheaded the event, first suggested it when athletes, including Padgett herself, realized the Saturday meet conflicted with the women’s marches. Determined to participate in some capacity, Padgett and her sister—a Wesleyan swimmer—reached out to other NESCAC captains and together, with the endorsement of their coaches, planned the event.

Bowdoin’s women’s team captains, Erin Houlihan ’17 and Schwartz, were excited about organizing and participating in the march as a united group of female athletes. 

“It was really important to find a way to participate that was particularly meaningful [to me],” said Houlihan. “I am definitely passionate about a lot of the issues, but swimming is also really important to me. It was really cool to be able to stand up for what I believe in with all these other female athletes.”

While the captains coordinated logistics, both Schwartz and Houlihan made it clear that the event was both team-driven and garnered the support of their parents and male teammates.

“The men’s team gave us a lot of positive feedback,” said Houlihan. “[They] were lined up along the pool cheering and when we finished the relay almost everyone jumped in [the pool].”

 The unity and solidarity of the swimmers throughout the entire meet was deeply felt by all.

“It’s always cool when there’s something bigger than swimming out there, when four teams who are normally competing come together at a meet to do this one thing,” said Houlihan. “It means swimming is important to us but there are things that are also really valuable besides competition.”