At Downers Grove North High School, being part of the swim and dive team means being part of a family. The program has a long tradition of success, and many of its athletes and coaches have known each other for decades.
One of North High's most beloved coaches, Tom Redig, led the swim team for more than 20 years. A former chemistry teacher at North, Redig coached from 1986 until 2009, when he retired due to health issues.
Tom's wife, Patty Redig, has also been a prominent figure in the Downers Grove swimming community as a coach for the Express Swim Team.
On Aug. 30, dozens of Trojan swimmers and alumni gathered for a special intersquad meet, where the team not only recognized more than a dozen All-Americans, but also rallied to support the Redigs and their daughter Kayla, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
Kayla Redig, 25, was a standout swimmer during her time at North High. She graduated in 2006 as a two-time All-American, and went on to swim for the University of Minnesota and the University of Illinois Chicago.
In May, Kayla was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, a rare illness for someone so young.
"It was shocking," Tom Redig said. "You never think you're going to be watching your daughter go through cancer, especially at age 25."
Since her diagnosis, Kayla has gone through two rounds of chemotherapy to treat the cancer, which spread to her lymph nodes. She will undergo a double mastectomy in the coming weeks to remove remaining cancer tissue.
To help support the Redigs, the North High swim team decided to collect donations during its All-American recognition ceremony Aug. 30. The event was organized by Jan Sims, mother of All-Americans Burke, Haley, Gabby and Maddy Sims.
"Most of the swimmers at Downers Grove North have been coached by Tom or Patty at some point in their careers, and many of them know and love Kayla," Jan Sims said. "The Redigs have given so much to this community, we just wanted to do something to honor and support them."
Sims had already been planning a ceremony to reunite North High's All-American swimmers, and decided it would be the perfect opportunity to support the Redigs.
"Tom coached many of these All-Americans and Kayla is an All-American herself, so we wanted to celebrate those achievements while also collecting donations," Sims said.
Tom Redig said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from the school and his former athletes.
"This just reinforced for me that this sport is really about family," Tom Redig said. "This community never ceases to amaze me."
Kayla continues to teach fifth grade in Wilmette, despite her aggressive treatment plan. She keeps her family and friends updated through her blog, "Love Conquers All."
"She has been incredibly strong and optimistic. She's determined to get through it," Patty Redig said.
Tom Redig said he hopes Kayla's story will make women realize how important it is to perform self-examinations every month.
"It saved her life," he said.
The Downers Grove North swim team will continue collecting donations for the Redigs as Kayla moves forward with treatment, Sims said. Donations can be mailed to:
The Redig Family
c/o The Sims Family
4533 Downers Drive
Downers Grove, IL 60515
"It's in our nature to give, but now we are in a position to receive and it's very humbling," Tom Redig said. "We are awed and ever so thankful."
Downers Grove North All-American Swimmers and Divers
Downers Grove North has produce 28 All-American swimmers and divers, a distinction awarded through the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association. To be considered an All-American, swimmers must compete for an interscholastic team and be scholastically eligible. The fastest 100 athletes in each event are named All-Americans.
The program has also produced 31 Academic All-Americans, all of whom achieved a minimum GPA of 3.75 in their senior year.
More than a dozen All-Americans were honored at North High on Aug. 30. They were presented plaques, and took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new display outside the school's swimming facility.
The following individuals earned All-American honors in swimming and diving:
- Michael Verdonck (1975-76)
- Burke Sims (2007-08, 2008-09)
- Ryan Downey (2008-09)
- Casey Ozog (2008-09)
- Dennis Graves (2008-09)
- Mike Reed (2009-10)
- Debbie Sykes (1976-77)
- Jaime Rohloff (1976-77)
- Laura Felgenhauer (1976-77)
- Maggie Fischer (1976-77)
- Suzie Straub (1982-83)
- Kayla Redig (2004-05, 2005-06)
- Adrienne Bicek (2007-08, 2008-09)
- Haley Sims (2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11)
- Emma Buckley (2007-08)
- Morgan Piasecki (2007-08)
- Emily Wilkinson (2008-09)
- Caitlin Landry (2008-09)
- Jessica Johnson (2008-09)
- Kate Smith (2009-10)
- Gabby Sims (2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13)
- Allison Soper (2010-11)
- Maddy Sims (2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13)
- Jennifer Gockman (2010-11)
- Emily Albrecht (2011-12)
- Gabriele Serniute (2011-12)
- Hannah Kaufmann (2011-12)
- Daria Wick (2012-13)