St. Cloud State Swimmer Marena Kouba Saves 3 People from Drowning in Michigan

Blake SchusterAnalyst IJuly 23, 2020

Kentucky's Geena Freriks is reflected on the starting block before diving into the pool for the 800-yard freestyle relay at the NCAA women's swimming and diving championships at Georgia Tech Wednesday, March 16, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
David Goldman/Associated Press

While relaxing on a beach in Michigan's Upper Peninsula on Sunday, the captain of the St. Cloud State University swim team heard a cry for help coming from Lake Superior and immediately jumped into action.  

Marena Kouba, 21, swam out nearly 200 yards toward two children and an adult who were struggling against a strong current. Kouba was able to catch up with the three and swim them back to the beach safely.

The SCSU student detailed the rescue for KSTP 5 News in St. Paul:

"I couldn’t just stand around and wait to see what happened, immediately I dove into the water and started swimming out to them, they were all separated about 10 to 20 feet apart from each other...I got them all together, I had them all hold hands and then I went in the middle and linked up with them, and I paddled with one arm and kicked with both of my legs...

"If we had just waited for the Coast Guard, those three probably would not have made it, and it would’ve been a totally different story, I just couldn’t live with myself if anything would’ve happened to any one of them." 

Kouba's boyfriend, Dayton Nash, ran to find help while the college swimmer dove into the water. He says police told him 40 people required rescue from that area near Little Presque Isle two weeks earlier due to strong waves and currents, per KTSP. 

Prior to her college career, Kouba earned All-State honors at Sartell High School in Minnesota in the 200-meter medley and 400-meter freestyle relay. That earned her a spot at St. Cloud, which she says has helped build her confidence in the water. 

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"She didn't think about herself, she didn't hesitate, she didn't think what was best for her, she just knew that she had to help somebody else and somebody else was in need and she did that," SCSU coach Jeff Hegle told KTSP. "I think that's the true sign of a leader and a captain." 

Kouba and Nash weren't originally planning on going out to Michigan that day. Both said they're relieved they were there.