CPS swim coach hailed as hero after student collapses in pool


Payton College Prep student Claire Luning said she was halfway through swimming the 50-yard butterfly during a practice two weeks ago at Jones College Prep when something felt off.

“I remember breathing really hard,” said Luning, 16, a junior and member of the Jones-Payton swim team. “I mean, I was racing, but it didn’t feel normal. I couldn’t breathe. I wasn’t taking in enough oxygen, and I kind of started to panic, but I kept going for some reason. It kind of went fuzzy then … I remember grabbing onto the lane line and people calling my name but I didn’t have the energy to answer them and tell them I was OK.”

Luning was going into cardiac arrest. Her teammate hoisted her up near the gutter and called out to swim coach Mac Varilla, who learned CPR about 10 years ago as a lifeguard with the Chicago Park District but never had to use it before.

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Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)

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