How has your school year been? Drew Guimond’s has been challenging, rewarding and awesome. It’s also been numbing, worrisome and terrifying.
It would be a lot for anyone, but especially a high school senior competing in two sports.
“It’s a lot of juggling,” Guimond said.
You probably guessed that. You should know this: sports are only part of Guimond’s story and not nearly the biggest.
Yes, he is a two-time state qualifier this fall. He helped the Tri-Valley golf team advance to the Class 1A State Tournament in mid-October. On Saturday, he will compete in the 1A state cross country meet at Peoria.
That’s the awesome aspect of all this.
“Pretty awesome,” he called it.
Here’s the difficult part. Guimond’s father, David, underwent brain surgery in late September. The family learned of a tumor in late August.
The youngest of David and Jennifer Guimond’s three sons had scheduled everything in advance of the cross country and golf seasons, detailing which days would be reserved for the respective sports. He is meticulous that way.
He had not planned for this.
“It’s something I’ve never gone through before,” Drew Guimond said. “Hearing that for the first time, I didn’t really know how to react.”
He could have put sports on hold. Who would blame him?
Guimond did the opposite, pouring his aching heart into 5-irons and mile splits.
“With golf and cross country, it kind of helped me cope with everything,” he said. “I just really tried to focus on that.”
Four days after his father’s surgery, Guimond shot 84 at El Paso Golf Club to help Tri-Valley win its first regional championship. The next week, his 90 helped the Vikings place second in the Danville Schlarman Sectional, earning their first state berth since 2004.
In cross country, he placed ninth in the regional and, this past Saturday, 12th in the sectional. He is Tri-Valley’s first boys state cross country qualifier since 2002.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said.
This is better. Dad is recovering.
“The surgery was really successful,” Drew Guimond said. “They got about 90 percent of the tumor out. It’s usually like 60 percent. His leg is still a little bad, but they said that will get better with time. That’s a good sign. He didn’t know if he would be able to walk the same.”
Drew Guimond insists he is the fortunate one. He has been here with his parents throughout his father’s diagnosis and surgery. His brothers, Grant and Jacob, are in college and have received news largely through phone calls.
“Being away from home and having this happen, it’s difficult,” their brother said.
So is losing a pet. That also happened in the midst of this.
On the morning of the Heart of Illinois Conference Golf Tournament, Drew Guimond learned the family’s dog, a boxer named Winston, had died in the night.
Distraught, he gathered himself and played anyway, shooting 88 as the Vikings won the league title.
It reinforced what Tri-Valley golf coach Bryan Corn believed all along about Guimond.
“I work on the mental game with my golfers all year long. That’s probably 90 percent of my focus,” Corn said. “Even as a freshman, maybe it’s because he had two older brothers or maybe because he’s kind of been a little undersized, I knew he was mentally strong.”
Cross country coach Todd Schneider has seen that as well. Schneider will tell you there is a fighter inside Guimond’s 5-foot-6, 115-pound body.
“He loves competition more than almost anybody I’ve ever coached,” Schneider said.
“That competition really carried him through his freshman and sophomore years,” Schneider added. “Last year he did a little better. This senior year, he really made a dedication to run 450 miles over the summer, enter some races, get some hard workouts in.
“He always liked to compete, but somewhere along the line he started to like to run. And the older he got, the more he saw how important training was and the purpose of everything we do.”
Guimond rates cross country his “primary” fall sport. He also is a distance runner in track and plans to run both in college, likely at the Division III level.
That can wait. The priority is training for Saturday’s state meet and supporting his father’s recovery. Dad is with him every step in the way that truly matters.
“I think sports-wise this has made me stronger,” Guimond said. “In golf, if I have a bad hole, I don’t have any emotions towards it. I just move on. In cross country, it’s like, ‘This is nothing compared to what my dad’s gone through.’”
Moments later, it was off to cross country practice. Drew Guimond’s school year marches on.
So does he.