Corinne Guist and the Oswego Co-op swim team’s season started in a tumultuous manner with circumstances beyond their control.
But it could still end in triumphant fashion.
Guist, an Oswego senior and Iowa State recruit, is back at the IHSA state meet for the third time this weekend, part of the 200 and 400 freestyle relays and also a qualifier in the open 200 and 500 freestyle.
The team as a whole has 16 state qualifiers, with entries in 11 of 12 events and two swimmers in five different events at the two-day meet being held at the FMC Natatorium in Westmont.
It’s an achievement in and of itself, even more so given the controversial lead-up to the season.
In August longtime swim coach Deryl Leubner was fired as administrator and coach of the Oswego School District’s Delta Aquatics program, following a district investigation into complaints made by students that he was verbally abusive. Leubner also no longer coaches the district’s swim team.
Leubner’s termination, and how the lengthy investigation was conducted, sparked a public outcry from several swimmers and parents within the program.
Those emotions haven’t exactly dissipated.
“The beginning of the season was disappointing with how the situation was handled; it affected us emotionally and physically, but it brought us together,” Guist said. “We were very supportive of each other and happy to be together and beyond thankful for [coach] Bob [Sprunger] for the opportunity. It feels great to be here.”
What the weekend ideally could bring would be a state trophy, what would be Oswego Co-op’s fourth state trophy in five state meets. Oswego Co-op took third in 2016 and 2019, and second in 2017. There was no state meet in 2020 due to COVID restrictions.
Oswego Co-op carries momentum into the weekend, a team championship at the Neuqua Valley Sectional. Oswego senior Lauren Wille, a Washington State recruit, won the 100 and 200 freestyle there and swam on the winning 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
“I think it gave our team a huge boost of confidence because we have had quite an interesting season,” said Wille, who is seeded third in the 200 freestyle and seventh in the 100 freestyle at state based off sectional times. “I’m very excited for the weekend. This is one of the biggest groups of girls we have had qualify, that says something in itself.”
Oswego Co-op, based on its sectional performance, is the No. 1 seed in both the 200 freestyle relay (1:34.67) and 400 freestyle relay (3:27.45).
“I think we swam better than expected. I thought our 200 and 400 freestyle relay would do well but we swam better than I thought it would,” Sprunger said. “I feel really good about things going into state. The word I would use is confident. I don’t want to make any predictions but I think we definitely could get top 10 [as a team], possibly top five and could get top three and a trophy.”
Sophomore Chloe Diner, who swims on the 200 freestyle relay and the 200 medley relay, will also be making her state debut in the 200 individual medley and 100 freestyle. Diner had the sixth-fastest 200 IM time at sectionals.
“Honestly, I’m really nervous. I don’t usually get nervous but I am nervous, but once I get there I think it will turn more to excitement,” Diner said. “This season has been very different than what is usual. We just all want to try our best and whatever happens, happens. We’re going to be proud of ourselves no matter what.”
Guist shares that sentiment. She comes in to state with the fourth-fastest 500 freestyle time and the fifth-fastest 200 freestyle time from sectionals.
“I’m really happy with how I swam at sectionals, but I definitely feel like there is more in the tank. I was only half-rested for that meet and I’m fully rested for state,” Guist said. “We have a lot of potential and are very supportive of each other.
“There were so many outside forces that have affected us, but that has not affected our team or our mentality. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’m really proud of the girls and can’t wait to see what the weekend brings.”