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Oswego East Student Athlete of the Week: Grace Cooper

Nov 22, 2016 11:58AM ● Published by Zac Sadek

Girls Swim Team-Grace Cooper (pictured bottom left

OEHS Freshman Grace Cooper understands sacrifice.  

While most students her age are becoming acclimated to high school engrossing themselves to most things stereotypical of 14/15 year olds (sleepovers, Friday night football games, etc.), Grace has dedicated herself to swimming.  This past weekend, her sacrifice paid off in a huge way for she and her teammates, and that sacrifice has earned Grace the distinction of Oswego East Student Athlete of the Week.

The grueling nature of competitive swimming goes largely unseen to the general public.  For example, Grace and her teammates do not really have an off-season.  You can find them in the pool during the summer, training 5 days a week for five hours a day.  During the season, Grace is up at 4:45 A.M. to jump into the pool by 5:30, and then returns after school for 3 hours of training. These athletes are defined by the word sacrifice, and Grace is at the top of her class.

Grace began her journey at the young age of 7, swimming in the Oswego Delta Aquatics program.  Head swim coach, Deryl Leubner, doubles as the swim coach at the high school level, and saw Grace’s potential early.  Upon entering high school, Grace seized an opportunity to swim at the varsity level, and she and her teammates put together a line-up that would earn the program its most success in school history.

The transition to a varsity swim schedule is brutal, but Grace has shown the ability and perseverance to be successful.  Grace’s mom, Kim Cooper, understands what it has taken for Grace to be successful, and how much she has improved and matured since August.  

“Grace has grown more disciplined, determined, and driven,” says Kim.  She goes on to add, “[Grace] has had to give up a lot of extra-curricular activities for friends for love of the sport.  She sacrifices those things so she can practice or perform to the best of her abilities.”

While asking so much of someone so young is not easy, the payoff has been worth it.  This past weekend the Oswego Swim and Dive team competed at the state competition.  Individually, Grace placed 4th in state in the 50 meter freestyle, and was a member of the 200 medley relay that took 8th, the 200 freestyle relay that took 4th, and the 400 freestyle relay that took 3rd. Grace also set a pool record of 23.45 during the sectional meet in the 50 meter freestyle.  The team qualified for state in 11 out of 12 events, and their efforts during the state tournament earned them a third place finish overall.

A third place finish in the state tournament is not realized without the efforts of so many.  Grace’s favorite aspect of swimming is that it is, “ [a] team sport, and everyone is so close.”  Fortunately for Grace, she has had so many upperclassman and teammates to support and push her.  This will only serve to help further the success of the swim program, as Grace will be asked to take on a much more prominent role as a leader in the three years she has remaining.

One would imagine with the exhausting schedule these swimmers face, they are bound to fall short in other areas in their life, such as the classroom.  However, committing themselves to a cause has only strengthened their resolve outside the pool.  With a team G.P.A. of 3.58, the girls swim team has always been a standard for academic excellence.  

Despite being only a freshman, Grace has held up her end of the bargain in the classroom, and challenged herself academically by taking rigorous courses such as AP Human Geography, Pre-AP English 2, Honors Biology, and Honors Geometry.  Despite the difficult content and high level of homework, Grace has managed to thrive, despite the demanding hours she commits to the training.

Only a freshman, Grace has plenty of time to decide on her future.  She has a goal of swimming at the collegiate level, and based on her success and commitment, she should see multiple opportunities to do so in the coming years.  

As far as her future, Grace would like to work in the medical field.  Her Biology teacher, Heather Thomas, understands just what makes Grace so special, both in and out of the pool.  

“[Grace] is an incredibly hard worker, which makes her stand out among her peers,” says Heather. Some teenagers that have experienced Grace’s success would boast about their exploits, but Heather has witnessed only the opposite.  “Grace is extremely humble and kind.  I truly think many kids in her situation, with the talent she has in the pool and classroom, would be more vocal about their abilities and successes.  But Grace is modest at best about all of her accomplishments and talents both academically and in the pool.”

With 3 years remaining, Grace has only scratched the surface of her potential.  No doubt expectations will continue to rise with this shining freshman, but if history serves as an indicator, Grace will continue her rise to prominence through a humble work ethic.  Having been in junior high only 6 months ago, Grace understands just what next year’s freshman will be facing, and offers words of encouragement.  

“Be prepared and stay positive, because there are many ups and downs in a season,” says Grace.  

A huge congratulation goes out to not only Grace, but all of the girls who worked so hard and accomplished so much this season.
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