They weren’t the fastest swimmers, they didn’t execute a perfect stroke and they didn’t break any records — but they still walked away from the Feb. 1 Iceworm Survival Suit Races with a perfect score.
Team “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy,” which won the races’ award for artistic merit, was made up of Cordova Jr./Sr. High School students Leo Craig, 15, Trent Fritsch, 15, Anika Witsoe, 17, and Floyd Witsoe, 14. The three male members of the team participated wearing dresses lent by a friend of Anika Witsoe’s. Anika Witsoe, donning a luxuriant leopard-print coat and gold chains, and carrying an ornate cane made from a curtain rod, took the role of the team’s procurer.
“I thought it’d be funny if all the guys wore dresses — because, of course that would be funny,” Anika Witsoe said. “I mentioned it to these guys, and they were, surprisingly, fine with it.”
For the four swim team members, training for the race included not just practicing getting in and out of a survival suit, but finding their proper dress size. Fritsch put on his dress inside-out, not realizing that anything was amiss until Anika Witsoe intervened.
Floyd and Anika Witsoe had participated in previous years’ Survival Suit Races, aiming for a top speed score. This time, however, they had a different plan. When Anika Witsoe worried that their audience might be offended, her parents reassured her that Cordova was too relaxed and tolerant to get worked up over a little light ribaldry.
“I didn’t really think about it until the day before — until I realized, oh my gosh, this is tomorrow,” Fritsch said. “Okay, so I’m going to embarrass myself in front of the entire town.”
When the day of the Survival Suit Races arrived, team “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy” received a perfect 10 score for artistic impression, with one judge revising a score of nine after Floyd Witsoe suffered a comedic wardrobe malfunction.
The artistic impression category was introduced roughly a decade ago to encourage participation by residents who might be scared off by the rigorous competition for top speed, said Survival Suit Races lead organizer Dana Smyke. Previous artistic impression winners included a team, three of whose members linked arms to form a human raft. The team’s fourth member rode on top of the other three, never touching the water. Smyke himself once participated in the race clad in a pajama onesie.
These antics are all for the good so long as they encourage people to learn how to use their survival suits, Smyke said.
“I think a lot of people, especially young guys, play to the judges,” Smyke said. “The bottom line is, they’re going to get their suits on and swim over to the raft — so, if they want to ham it up along the way, that’s all right.”