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The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

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Ethel Lackie: Lab alumna competed at 1924 Paris Olympics


Although Lab is often deemed a nonathletic school, it boasts a wide range of accomplished athletes in numerous different sports, including at least one Olympian. 

Ethel Lackie, a 1924 alumna and world-renowned competitive swimmer, competed at the Paris Olympics at just 17 years old, winning two gold medals: one in the women’s 100-meter freestyle and another in the women’s 4×100 relay. She was the first woman to break the 60 seconds world record in the individual category, and her time of 1:12.4 led her to be admitted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1969. 

UChicago Athletics Hall of Fame

Ms. Lackie was born on Feb. 10, 1907, in South Shore. She came from a long line of swimmers, although none of them competed professionally. Discovering her love of swimming when she was just 3, Ms. Lackie was taught by her father, and by the age of 14, she could already swim 3.25 miles out in Lake Michigan. 

Her success in swimming fueled her to compete at various Illinois Athletic Club meets in Chicago and Indiana, working with fellow American swimmer Sybil Bauer along the way. She and Ms. Bauer, along with diver Caroline Smith, participated in many races at the state and national level, before they eventually competed at the Paris Olympics. 

Ms. Lackie retired from swimming in 1929. She was honored in Lab’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2021.

Dave Ribbens, was Lab’s athletics director from 2003-2023, explained that Ms. Lackie’s accomplishments truly stand out, as she competed at a time when very few female athletes participated in the Olympics.

“She was a true pioneer,” he said. “For her to have achieved all that she did is historic in and of itself, but it is particularly special that not only represented the city of Chicago, but Lab School and all of its graduates as well.”

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Orlie Weitzman
Orlie Weitzman, Reporter
Orlie Weitzman is a member of the Class of 2027 and serves as reporter. She began the U-High Midway in the 2023-24 school year when she was a ninth grader. Orlie's second home is Hyde Park School of Dance, where she is a company dancer and a teacher trainee. Orlie also loves reading classics, YA novels and poetry.

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