After the first victory of the season, many college teams celebrate by drinking gallons upon gallons of free alcohol. Not the SUNY New Paltz Women’s Rugby team. They would much rather jump off steep cliffs into 45 degree water.
On a recent Sunday afternoon about half the team trekked to Peterskill Falls in Minnewaska State Park in Gardiner. After climbing unstable rocks, walking on rotting tree trunks and crossing near-freezing rapids, it’s understandable why the rest of the girls stayed home.
Some of the girls who showed up acted cocky initially, but that changed once they approached the water.
“It took even the bravest girl at least five minutes to decide to jump,” Samantha Mitchell said, a junior and one of the newer players. “Everyone takes their baby steps, but sooner or later you just have to close your eyes and jump.”
Mitchell, who openly spoke of her fear of heights, was actually one of the more experienced members in the cliff diving field.
“I’ve been doing things like this ever since I was little,” she said. “My parents were daredevils. But no matter how many times, I still need a push. It’s OK if they call me a pansy, it’s true.”
For most of the members, however, this was their first time.
“I am so scared,” said Lisa MacWilliams, a senior who has been playing rugby for two years. “It looks really high, but I guess I can do this. I’m pumped.”
One member wasn’t so impressed. Senior and veteran athlete Theresa Rodriguez, a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, believed that a 40-foot jump just didn’t cut it.
“It looks fun and all, but I honestly expected it to be higher up and the water to be deeper,” she said. “But it’s still thrilling.”
Some would argue the most thrilling part was that this excursion was completely unplanned.
“Literally 10 minutes after we won, [our teammate] Elia was like, ‘Hey, we should go cliff diving to celebrate.’ We were almost not going to go,” MacWilliams said.
Sophomore Elia Figari was not shy about taking all the credit.
“Yes, I was the one who initiated it,” she said. “It’s my birthday soon, and I wanted to do something special for that and for the win today.”
Even though only 11 members showed up at Peterskill Falls, some of them just bench players, camaraderie was definitely in the air.
“There’s sisterly love here,” Figari said.