College swimmer Marena Kouba saves children from drowning and receives rare Carnegie Medal – WCCO

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (WCCO) — St. Cloud State swimmer Marena Kouba is a Carnegie Medal winner. It is an exclusive national award for someone who risks their life to an extraordinary degree while saving a stranger. Many recipients actually die during their rescue efforts.

It was a close call, but Kouba survived to tell his story.

READ MORE: Next weather: beautiful Tuesday, then more violent weather, stifling heat

The swimming pool is her place of happiness, and has been since she was little in Sartell.

“Something clicked there and I was like, yes, this is the sport for me,” Kouba said. “Maybe it was just to be in the water and splash around, but whatever it was, it stuck.”

She swam for St. Cloud State, breaking records, a varsity athlete developing her skills and character under head coach Jeff Hegle.

“It’s not about being a good swimmer, it’s just a tiny part of their life,” Hegle said. “When they leave here and you know they’re going to do great things because they’re good people, and that’s what we want.”

In July 2020, she and her boyfriend Dayton escaped confinement by relaxing in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. They headed to a sandbar on Little Almost Island to soak up some peace, but the scenery quickly turned terrifying. They spotted a Michigan uncle, niece and nephew.

“I thought they were laughing in the water, but it turns out they were actually screaming. And Dayton was like, ‘Hey, maybe you should go check this out,'” Kouba said. dived into the water and swam there.”

Rip current was active. The family had been sucked directly into the water.

“I arrived at the uncle’s first. I was trying to talk to him, and he was sobbing, I’m sure overwhelmed, not sure what’s going to happen. He was panicking,” Kouba said. “So I grabbed him, I said, ‘You gotta grab my hand, we’re going to move on to the kids. “”

She soon realized that this was a life-threatening situation.

“When we got to the two children, the little boy started asking if we were going to die,” Kouba said tearfully. “Excuse me. And I was like, ‘No, no, that’s not going to happen.’ »

(credit: CBS)

READ MORE: What is the purpose of the “No Mow May” movement?

It wasn’t her swim training that worked, it was something else she learned in the pool. As the freezing water raged, Kouba – who had no training as a lifeguard – grabbed the uncle’s hand and created a chain with the children and channeled the leadership she had learned.

“I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to need you to listen to me, like I’m going to be the boss for now.’ And they were very receptive to everything I said,” she said. “Because that’s exactly what they needed. They needed me to be there and bring them back to shore.

And they managed to get back to shore. Eric Benac was shaken and stunned.

“She just kind of appeared out of nowhere, like I thought maybe she came from the sky, as far as I know,” Benac, of Lansing, said.

The children were safe and Benac was taken to hospital and then released. But it will never be released from memory.

“I will always remember that. I will never forget that she saved me, by doing that. She risked her own life to save people she didn’t know, strangers. To me, in my eternal gratitude, I can never repay that.

(credit: CBS)

His award is the rare national honor of the Carnegie Medal for Lifesaving.

“It’s one of the best awards a person can get, so it’s pretty cool, she deserves it,” Hegle said.

Because as strong as his skills were, it was the depth of his character that emerged from the water.

“I didn’t do it for any recognition, any thank you. I just did it because that’s what you’re supposed to do,” she said.

Kouba will receive his Carnegie medal in two months, as well as a monetary award. She has just completed her senior swimming season and is now in grad school.

NO MORE NEWS: Eastern Minnesota communities clean up after a day of storms: ‘The devastation was too much to absorb’

The Red Cross recommends that if you see someone drowning, try tossing them a flotation device rather than going into the water.

Comments are closed.