GVSU swim and dive’s Jenn Priebe battles through mono in senior season

GVL / Emily Frye      
Jenn Priebe on Saturday Jan. 21, 2016.

Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye Jenn Priebe on Saturday Jan. 21, 2016.

Jake Carroll

The morning of a meet, Grand Valley State senior swimmer Jenn Priebe woke up with a cough and some chest pain. This had been something manifesting throughout the past couple mornings, and she figured she was just coming down with bronchitis or the flu.

That meet was against Northern Michigan Oct. 29, and she was only five meets into her final season as a Laker.

Priebe shook off the illness and figured she would get over it in a couple days, and be swimming again soon enough. When she returned from the trip to Northern Michigan, she went to the doctor, where they told her it was bronchitis and she would need three days of rest.

Those three days didn’t do much for Priebe—she now felt much worse. She went back to the doctor where they ran some blood tests and concluded that she had come down with every college student’s nightmare: mononucleosis, or more commonly referred to as simply “mono.”

The doctor told Priebe she would have to sit out from swimming for at least three weeks. Priebe, not knowing she had mono, had already been swimming with the illness for a week. This aggravated her illness, as she would have been resting during that time had she known the severity of it.

This resulted in Priebe being sidelined until the team’s training trip in Miami over winter break.

“I have never missed a meet until this year,” Priebe said. “I’ve been injured before in high school, but I have never been inactive for that long before.”

During her recovery, Priebe was mostly resting, attending swim practices and meets while watching from the sidelines and talking with her family.

“We talked a lot. I tried to stay in contact daily,” said Chris Priebe, Jenn Priebe’s mother. “I tried to make sure she was getting enough to eat, make sure she was getting the tests done and getting enough rest. I helped as much as I could for being miles away.”

Over the time that she was sick, Priebe never missed a class because of her illness. Mono is known to be a sickness that causes significant fatigue. Priebe likened it to waking up in the middle of the night and staying that tired for the entire day.

“If I wasn’t sleeping I was studying,” Priebe said. “I was present for each class. If I was present or not mentally, I’m not really sure.”

The time away from swimming was especially disheartening for Priebe, because she is the type of competitor that is always looking to do whatever it takes to win. It doesn’t matter if she does well individually or not—all that matters to her is the team’s success.

“(Jenn) is always looking for the team victory,” said GVSU coach Andy Boyce. “She’s the kind of competitor that you can put on the end of a relay. She is excited to help the team any way that she can.”

Priebe has not made any national competition cuts, but she could still compete as part of a relay.

She prides herself on something Boyce said at a banquet last season.

“If we’re in a tight-knit situation where we could either win or lose the meet, I count on Jenn to put on a relay and I know that she’ll do what I need her to do,” Boyce said at the team’s banquet last season.

Since her return from being sick, Priebe has fit back into her spot seamlessly. In the Lakers’ last meet against Indianapolis Saturday, Jan. 21, she finished with first place finishes in the 200 freestyle (1:58.24) and the 50 freestyle (25.03). She also added a second place finish in the 100 freestyle. Her performance was like she never left.

Priebe has at least one more meet in the pool as a Laker with the GLIAC Championship meet coming up Feb. 8-11 in Saginaw, Michigan. The women’s swim and dive team have had the conference title in their crosshairs for a long time, and they hope this season will be the time they take it for themselves. No matter what happens, Priebe will be there to do what she always does—help the team win.