HERALD ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: NEW TRIER'S KAELYN GRIDLEY
Winning an individual event, swimming on a winning relay and placing in the top three in two other events, New Trier senior Kaelyn Gridley helped the Trevians win the girls swimming and diving state championship last weekend.
It was the first time the meet was held at the new FMC Natatorium in Westmont, but it was familiar waters for New Trier. Though it was the Trevians' first state title since 2013, it was their 15th since the first official Illinois High School Association girls swim meet in 1975, at New Trier.
Those 15 state titles more than double the 7 shared by Hinsdale Central and Rosary; New Trier's 34 overall girls swimming state trophies also doubles Rosary's 17.
Having signed her National Letter of Intent to Duke University only days before, Gridley opened the finals on Saturday by swimming the breaststroke leg on New Trier's 200-yard medley relay. The team of seniors Carly Novelline, Gridley, Alexis Wendel and junior Charlize Escasa won in 1 minute, 39.65 seconds to break New Trier's own state record in the event. (Gridley and Novelline swam on that unit, too, in 2019).
"She makes everyone around her better, and I am so proud of how much she has grown as a leader over the past year," New Trier coach Robert "Mac" Guy said of Gridley.
Next up for Gridley was the 50 freestyle, a sprint in which the senior placed third at 23.21 seconds.
Gridley joined Escasa, sophomore Connie Gillum and senior Jane Sanderson on a second-place 200 freestyle relay.
Gridley followed teammate Novelline's victory in the 100 backstroke with her own title in the 100-yard breaststroke. It was Gridley's third state title in the 100 breast, winning as a freshman, sophomore and senior with last year's meet canceled by COVID-19.
In the breaststroke final Gridley won the race in 1:00.13. The day before, in the preliminaries, she swam it in 59.92 -- either time would have established a new state record. Gridley's preliminary race was the first sub-1:00 time in the event by an Illinois female, according to SwimSwam.com.
A 2020 Olympic Trials qualifier in the 100 breaststroke, Gridley's four all-state medals on Nov. 13 gave her 11 for her career.
"Kaelyn is an amazing competitor and teammate," Guy said.