Turning pro suits American record-holder Lettenberger

It’s always swimsuit season for Ahalya Lettenberger, a para swimmer who holds five American records, setting one as recently as November swimming for Rice University.

The 2019 Glenbard West graduate, who won a silver medal in the 200-meter individual medley at the Tokyo Paralympic Games and last September was an inaugural inductee into the Illinois Swimming Hall of Fame, finished her bioengineering degree in May and her college eligibility in December and turned professional.

Since the Paralympics she had been an ambassador for the Speedo swimwear company, but leading up to a hopeful return to this summer’s Paris Paralympics, Lettenberger and Speedo have entered a full partnership.

“I have a lot of suits, I’ll tell you that,” said Lettenberger, a longtime customer.

“They just came out with a new line of suits in November, so I’ve been able to race with them a few times and they’re really great.”

These are some special suits, with what Speedo called “improved hydrophobic qualities” aided by technology from a company, Lamoral, that produced coatings for satellites.

Of the LZR Valor 2.0, Lettenberger said, “It really cuts out any drag that you have, so I really felt a lot smoother and lightweight in the water.”

She’s always felt light and free in the water. Lettenberger was born with arthrogryposis amyoplasia, a muscular skeletal disorder that affects her lower limbs.

She can walk short distances, like around the house, but from her hips to her ankles joint restriction, pain and muscular weakness has her in a wheelchair for longer distances.

She swims at an S6 or S7 level on the S1-S10 physical disability scale for para swimmers, S1 being the most restrictive classification.

With a sports-mad father, Tom, and brothers, Alex and Charlie, young Ahalya wasn’t going to just sit around.

She played soccer and softball while a student at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Glen Ellyn, but as she said, those are not conducive for someone with a physical disability.

“When I was 10 I started swimming and from when I first jumped in the pool I just loved it,” Lettenberger said. “It was very freeing. And I guess the rest is history.”

  Pictured at age 15, soccer and softball were too rough on Ahalya Lettenberger’s body, but swimming is where she has found freedom. Bev Horne/

It’s a history that includes silver medals in the 400-meter freestyle at the 2019 and 2023 Para Swimming World Championships.

Lettenberger’s itinerary includes World Series events in Italy starting today, and Indianapolis from April 11-13, plus her anticipated return for a third U.S. Paralympic Swimming Trials, June 27-29 in Minneapolis, the site of her 2021 qualification.

A fast learner too, decorated for academics both at Glenbard West and Rice, Lettenberger has been awarded as a Marshall Scholar. After the Paris Paralympics she’ll head to Britain for two years, attending Loughborough University for a master’s in sport biomechanics, and to University College London for a second master’s in disability, design and innovation.

“Basically, I want to design specific assistive technologies to help other people with disabilities,” she said, mentioning wheelchairs, prosthetics and exoskeletons.

She’s well-suited for that.

“Through swimming I really learned to accept my disability and embrace it,” Lettenberger said. “Swimming really changed my life and my outlook on my disability, and that’s why I’d like to get into assistive technology and engineering.”

To the mat

Elmhurst University on Monday announced it was adding women’s wrestling. Its first season will begin this fall.

The Bluejays join College Conference of Illinois-Wisconsin fellow charter members Augustana, Carthage, Illinois Wesleyan and North Central with women’s wrestling programs. Aurora and Lakeland compete as associate members in women’s and men’s wrestling.

Women’s wrestling became the CCIW’s 26th sport starting in the 2022-23 season. The NCAA designated it as an emerging sport for women in the 2020-21 academic year. It retains that status but given the sport’s growth is on a path toward earning the NCAA’s 91st championship in the winter of 2026, according to an NCAA release.

Elmhurst will be the nation’s 62nd Division III women’s wresting program.

“The program will provide an increased opportunity for women on our campus to participate in varsity sports, and we are excited at the prospect of being on the forefront of the growth of women’s wrestling,” Elmhurst University President Troy VanAken said in a news release.

First, the Bluejays need a coach. Glen Brittich is handling inquiries at

Swishers and dunkers

The 2024 Lake County Senior Shootout, returning after a three-year hiatus, invites nearly 60 of the top girls and boys basketball players to games at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, at Waukegan High School, 2325 Brookside Ave., on Saturday.

There will also be a coed 3-point shooting contest and a dunk competition.

Players may opt out because of spring sports, but the rosters include:

Janae Pullen and Inclarity Turney (Lakes), Tia Barnes and Judith Cerroblanco (Round Lake), Rylan Foster (Mundelein), Maddy Kopola, Kate Rule and Rachel Rule (Libertyville), Molly O’Riordan and Maddy Ziebarth (Barrington), and Hanna Glanz (Buffalo Grove).

Also: Kashaya Love, Mariah Phelps and Nari Powers (Warren), Makayla Campbell (Grayslake North), Emory Klatt and Kendall Williams (Stevenson), Helen Macy (Wauconda), Anna Gilbertson (Lake Zurich), Nevada Holm and Alyssa Sandquist (Grant), and Hailey Caya (Antioch).

Boys teams include:

Dylan Chung (Vernon Hills), Joel Bulka and Carter Webb (Antioch), Nick Popovich (Lake Zurich), Will Schubert (Grant), Jaden Jackson, James Kania and Lamar Pierce (Lakes), and Jack Dabbs (Stevenson).

Plus: Kaleb Jackson and Bryce Smith (Carmel), Jayden Hall (Grayslake Central), Alec Schmidts (Barrington), Braeden Carlsen and Cayden Mudd (Wauconda), Ben Van Lyssel (Libertyville), and Immanuel Brown, Alex Daniels and Josh Stewart (Warren).

Coaches for the girls teams are Babbi Barreiro (Barrington) and Jaime Dennis (Wauconda). Zack Ryan (Warren) and Gerald Coleman (North Chicago) coach the boys.

Admission is $10. For information email

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