GONZALES — It took Phillip Weber less than a minute to swim across a pond on Tuesday for the annual East Ascension High School Pond Jump.
Weber, who was soaking wet and breathing hard after the quick swim, was followed by more than 90 percent of the 378-member senior class for the traditional plunge on the last day of school for seniors.
At 9:11 a.m., the students, many dressed in costumes and wearing plastic, inflatable arm bands and floats of various styles, gathered in front of the school after completing the final exam of their high school careers.
As a Gonzales police officer opened the school’s front gate, the crowd of more than 400 parents, siblings, grandparents, relatives and friends began to shout and get into position to take photos or videos of their soon-to-be-wet children.
The pond is across the street from the school at a private medical facility.
Jackie Schlup wasn’t satisfied settling for a photo of the jump — she wanted to take the leap with her son.
And she did.
“I grabbed her hand and we went in together,” Micah Schlup, 18, said.
“I thought she would back out, but she didn’t,” Micah said after the jump. “I’m so proud of her.”
A dripping-wet Jackie Schlup echoed her son’s sentiments.
“I’m just so very proud of my son and what he has and will accomplish,” Jackie said.
Jackie said her son is leaving in September to join the Marines and plans to return to Gonzales and — hopefully — work for the Gonzales Police Department.
After Micah pulled his mother out of the pond, the mother-and-son duo began plotting to throw Jackie’s younger son, John, 14, into the murky water.
“I baptized you,” Micah said to his brother, an EA freshman.
Jackie and her two sons played in the water for a minute or two before posing on the bank for a family photo.
The pond jump tradition apparently originated when a few senior boys jumped in the pond on then-Ascension Parish Hospital grounds. It was a spontaneous, unorganized ritual until the early 1970s, most people believe, when it was outlawed over liability concerns because the pond was on private property. So, the jump was just legend through most of the 1970s and 1980s. In the mid-1990s, Gonzales Chief of Police Bill Landry teamed with school officials to add safety measures.
On Tuesday, officers with the Police and Fire Departments were on hand, “just in case,” Fire Chief Tracey Normand said. No incidents were reported.
Stacy Lavigne, a 1992 graduate, said she and her classmates didn’t get to jump “because they said if we jumped we wouldn’t get our diplomas.” She said her class is holding its 20-year reunion Saturday and she’s recommended they jump after the reunion.
Kane Glaze Jr., who graduated and jumped four years ago, stood by the pond with his mom and dad, Liz and Kane Glaze Sr., waiting for his brother, Dakota to jump.
“There he is, there he is,” Liz said, as she waved a sign that read, “Jump Dakota Jump.”
Kane Glaze Jr. said it’s been his mom’s dream to watch Dakota graduate and take part in the pond jump since she was diagnosed with cancer six years ago.
“She wanted to be healthy enough to watch him graduate and she made it,” Kane said.
As the Glaze family posed for photos, the last jumpers emerged from the water, and the tradition of pulling in friends and relatives began.
Some, like John Schlup, resisted for a moment, but most went willingly.
In less than 30 minutes, the jumping was over and the remnants of plastic grass skirts floated in the pond with flip-flops, rafts, parts of costumes, beach balls and other flotation devices.
East Ascension’s graduation ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. May 18 at Spartan Field in Gonzales.