Warren Township High School swimmer dies at practice in Vernon Hills

  • Joshua Church

    Joshua Church

Updated 11/18/2016 3:57 PM

A 17-year-old competitive swimmer from Wadsworth died during a club practice at Vernon Hills High School, authorities said.

Joshua Church, a student at Warren Township High School's Almond Road campus for juniors and seniors in Gurnee, was swimming for the privately operated Cats Aquatic Team of Vernon Hills when he died Wednesday night, officials said.


John Ahlgrim, superintendent of Gurnee-based Warren District 121, said a crisis team was set up for students needing support after officials learned of Church's death.

"It is a very difficult time because there are many people in our Warren family who are very close to Josh and the entire Church family," Ahlgrim said Friday. "Students and staff have been incredibly strong for one another."

Orlando Portillo, chief deputy Lake County coroner, said an autopsy performed on the teenager Thursday showed he died of undetermined natural causes. He said a specialist has been called in to assist in the investigation.

Vernon Hills Deputy Police Chief Rick Davies said officers and rescue personnel were called to the high school at 7:51 p.m. Wednesday for a report of a teen swimmer who was unresponsive in the men's locker room.

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He said the teen was taken to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, where he was pronounced dead at 8:53 p.m.

Portillo said the teen did not drown, and there were no signs of drug or alcohol abuse.

Church, a junior, was on Warren's varsity swim team and an honors student.

He attained the rank of junior national swimmer.

The morning after Church's death, a crisis team of social workers, a psychologist, administrators and counselors was available to students. And social workers followed Church's class schedule ready to provide immediate support for the teens and teachers, said Almond Road campus Principal Patrick Keeley.

"We gathered all of the boys and girls swimmers in a conference room with the coaching staff and a social worker," Keeley added. "This allowed the group to grieve together and allowed us to assess the group he would have been most connected with at the school."

Keeley said the swimmers also held a dinner at the O'Plaine Road freshmen-sophomore campus for each other and students not from Warren as a means of providing additional support in trying to get through a difficult time.

In addition to his swimming, Church was active in a youth group at Village Church in Gurnee. He is survived by his parents and two siblings.

Visitation is set from 3 to 9 p.m. Monday at Village Church, 1319 Hunt Club Road. A funeral service is scheduled at the church at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

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