This past Tuesday, the Carleton Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving teams participated in the fifth annual “Leave it in the Pool” Hour of Power, a swimming relay at Cowling Gym in honor of former Carleton swimmer Edward H. “Ted” Mullin. Mullin, who passed away at the beginning of his senior year in 2006. Mullin suffered from a rare form of soft-tissue cancer called synovial cell sarcoma. That same year, the Carleton swim teams began the Hour of Power, which raises money for sarcoma research at the University of Chicago. Fifteen other teams quickly agreed to participate, including the swim team New Trier, Illinois, Mullin’s old high school. Since then, the event has expanded every year; last year, it encompassed 134 teams on four continents, including both college and high school teams.
The Hour of Power consists of an all-out continuous swimming relay for exactly one hour. It was derived from an intense swim set that Ted himself swam as a student-athlete, originally called the “hour of power.” “It was the kind of workout that Ted loved because it required high levels of effort from all team members, and because it was a team set, where everyone worked hard,” explains Andy Clark, coach of the Men’s Swimming and Diving team at Carleton. After Ted died, he says, the team members wanted to create an event that would “honor Ted and his spirit, promote team spirit, generate awareness of sarcoma and raise funds to find a cure.”
Today, the Hour of Power is occurs not just all over the country, but all over the world. Every year, at exactly the same time – four to five PM central time – the swimmers line up in their lane and take turns swimming 50-meter sprints of any stroke that they choose. This synchronicity, Clark notes, is crucial in the event: “the fact that Hour of Power involves thousands of swimmers doing the same set on the same day at essentially the same time is unbelievably powerful.” Participants also agree to gather donations, which go to the Ted Mullin Fund for Pediatric Sarcoma Research at the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital. The fund specifically funds Stephen X. Skapek, M.D., and his team to work towards improved treatments and therapies of sarcoma.
During his time at Carleton, Mullin was captain of the swim team and a three-year letter winner for the Knights. In the 2004 MIAC Championships, he scored points in all three of his events – the 200-yard freestyle, the 500-yard freestyle, and the 1,650-yard freestyle – and was originally slated to graduate in 2006 before his battle with cancer forced him to leave Carleton. Despite this setback, he was still on track to graduate in June 2007 before cancer unfortunately took his life.
“Ted Mullin was the complete package: an excellent student, gifted athlete and caring human being” says former athletic director Leon Lunder. In fact, even while he was on leave from Carleton, Mullin co-captained two teams for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, raising over $5,000 for cancer research. “Ted had genuine integrity,” comments Clark. “It wasn’t forced, but was true to his spirit, and that made him a great captain.” Lunder concurs. “His care for and support of his classmates and teammates was incredible. Even as he suffered through the invasion of the cancer and the pain of the treatment he stayed focused on others.”
The Hour of Power, explains Lunder, arose from “a desire by those who knew [Ted] to leave a legacy of helping to find a cure.” This goal has certainly been successful: during the first year of the relay alone, nearly $11,000 dollars was raised for research. In 2009, nearly 6,500 participating athletes raised $78,000 for the fund, bringing the total for the first four years to over $190,000. This year, at least 93 collegiate swimming programs from 37 conferences had signed up, in addition to 35 American clubs and high schools, and several teams abroad. The total amount raised in 2010 has yet to be determined, but organizers hope it will be similar if not more than past years. To raise additional money, the swimming and diving teams sold “Cancer Sucks” t-shirts, as well as pizza. All money raised through these sales was donated to the fund.
In addition to the Hour of Power, the Carleton History department sponsors the Edward Mullin History Prize, a grant which officially allows a junior exemplifying “Ted’s love of history, academic excellence, selflessness, courage, and tenacity” to travel or do research. As such, even though most of Carleton’s current students never met Ted, they are aware of his legacy of both scholarship and service. “Ted was bigger than life,” concludes Lunder, “and his legacy lives on even after his passing.” His coach agrees. “Ted’s legacy is to strive to be your best of all time; to hope rather than despair; to know that there are no obstacles that cannot be overcome and that there is no room for self-pity. Sarcoma took his life, but it did not take the fighting spirit which we strive to instill in the Carleton teams.”
To donate to the Ted Mullin Pediatric Sarcoma Research Fund at the University of Chicago, you can write a check, made out to FJC/Ted Mullin Fund (please write “Ted Mullin Fund” on the memo line). Checks can be mailed to:
The Ted Mullin Fund
P.O. Box 437
Winnetka, IL 60093-0437