Good News Sunday: How competition, camaraderie drive all-ages Elgin swim team

This is Good News Sunday, a compilation of some of the more upbeat and inspiring stories recently published by the Daily Herald:

Before the sun even rose, coach Corinne Grotenhuis was pacing the pool deck at the Centre of Elgin, leading roughly 30 members of the Elgin Blue Wave Masters Swim Club through a morning practice on a recent Wednesday.

The water in the pool seldom was calm during the 90-minute session as swimmers — ages 24 to 78 — shared lanes to work on their strokes and prepare themselves for the Illinois Masters Swimming Association state meet.

It’s a labor of love for their coach. A swimmer herself, Grotenhuis started the team in 1987 when she was only 18.

“It’s a way of giving back to what I got out of swimming,” said Grotenhuis, who has volunteered to coach the team for 37 years. “And to watch these guys achieve their goals, I absolutely love it.”

The team has swimmers of all skill levels and ages. Anyone can participate as long as they can swim 500 yards to start.

Grotenhuis, who will be inducted this year into the Illinois Masters Swim Association Hall of Fame, said the club draws members from all over the suburbs because of its reputation.

“We usually get people who are afraid at first, and we start them off slowly,” Grotenhuis said. “But as the season goes, they get encouraged by their teammates. They want to compete in the meets.”

Jaime Garcia, a 76-year-old Elgin resident, says camaraderie is what draws him to the pool so early each morning.

“Being on the team motivates you to go a little farther,” he said. “The coach gives you tips on things, and it just keeps me going. It’s fun. I like the team atmosphere and the encouragement.”

For the full story, click here.

Claudia Kauck, left, with Sharon Cohen at Woodland Elementary School. As a student at the school, Kauck had Cohen for first and second grade. Kauck, a first-year teacher, now teaches in the classroom next door to Cohen. Courtesy of Woodland District 50

Rookie educator has classroom next to her first grade teacher at Woodland Elementary School

Grayslake native Claudia Kauck knew from a very young age what she wanted to do in life. Call it being a product of her environment.

Certainly, hard work and study were involved. But Kauck credits Sharon Cohen, her first and second grade teacher at Woodland Elementary School in Gurnee, with illuminating the path.

“She was just a great teacher. She's still a great teacher and mentor. I just knew I wanted to be a teacher after I had her,” said Kauck, who followed her dream and then some.

She landed her first teaching job as a first grade dual language teacher at Woodland Elementary in the classroom next door to Cohen. Circle complete.

“I kept in touch with her all the way through college, and now she teaches one door over,” Kauck said.

Cohen responded in kind.

“She was one of those students that you knew would one day make a difference,” Cohen posted on Facebook. “Here we are now. I get to work next to this brilliant teacher that was once my little first grade student.”

For the full story, click here.

Cindy Clay Crouse, 66, skates at the Crystal Ice House in Crystal Lake. She recently placed second in a national adult figure skating competition. Gregory Shaver/Shaw Local News Network

At 66, suburban figure skater still competing for national titles

Crystal Lake resident Cindy Crouse picked up the ice skates again at age 46 to take her niece ice skating. She hadn’t been on the ice for about 35 years, but immediately fell back in love with it.

Now, at 66, Crouse is better than ever after winning second place in a national adult figure-skating competition.

“It used to be that the girls would turn to me and ask me how old I was and be like, ‘Oh, my gosh, you’re older than my mother,’ and now they’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, you’re older than my grandmother,’” Crouse said. “I consider that a badge of honor.”

Crouse took second place in the “Adult Gold” section of the U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships earlier this month in Cleveland. The competition featured more than 450 ice skaters ages 21 and older in different age categories.

Crouse skates at the Crystal Ice House in Crystal Lake with the Wagon Wheel Figure Skating Club. Adult programs have grown internationally over the years and have gotten more popular, she said. One of her favorite parts of adult skating is creating a strong sense of community.

Crouse describes her skating style as sporty, energetic and happy. She said she stays away from sad music because she doesn’t know how to skate without smiling.

“I have so much fun out there. I have so much joy that I just can’t keep my face from smiling,” she said.

For the full story, click here.

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