The sport of swimming and diving was the backdrop Friday night, and the friendship and family behind the sport took center stage.
Prior to its first home meet of the season Sept. 17, New Trier mourned and remembered Samantha Cerrone, who would have been a junior swimmer for the Trevians. Cerrone died after on accident on June 9, the last day of school for New Trier.
“The biggest thing is to be together with her in mind,” Trevs coach Mac Guy said. “Because she died on the very last day of school, we didn’t have a good chance to come together much. It was a really good opportunity for us to be together.”
Cerrone’s teammates wore “Swim On, Samantha” T-shirts during the school day and before the meet, and their special swim caps said, “Swimming in memory of Samantha Cerrone.”
On the deck, Cerrone’s mother and father led a tribute in words, followed by three of Cerrone’s closest friends — Jillian Ketchum, Meada Estrada and Emily Connerty.
“She was super fun to be around and a hard worker,” Connerty told The Record. ” … She always made people around her laugh and smile. It was fun to watch her swim and she was a great bright soul to have on deck.”
All three friends spoke about Cerrone’s kindness and inspiring zest for life
“We spent every day together and she made me a better person in and out of the pool,” Ketchum said.
Estrada and Cerrone grew up competing together, first in gymnastics and then while swimming.
“She was always such a fun person to be around and was always pushing me to do my best,” Estrada said. “She always motivated me. … Even when we’re struggling during a hard practice, she always kept going and helped me keep going.”
A slideshow featuring photos of Cerrone played above the pool, casting a reflection of Cerrone’s image on the top of the water.
The Trevians gathered again as a team and the meet began.
“The situation is obviously tragic and has hit everyone really hard,” Guy said. “I’m really proud of the girls for the ability to come together and grieve together and also compete together.”
In the pool, New Trier topped Vernon Hills 140-46 in the Trevs’ first dual-meet result of the season.
Earlier in the year, the Trevians bested an impressive 10-team field at the Hinsdale Central Invite on Aug. 29. They also picked up a tri-meet win against Stevenson and St. Ignatius on Sept. 3.
In Hinsdale, New Trier racked up 554 points, more than 100 ahead of second-place finisher Hinsdale Central (428). Naperville Central (309) and St. Charles North (305) took third and fourth, respectively.
Returning state champion Carly Novelline won all four of her events at the meet, claiming individual titles in the 200- and 100-yard freestyles and team titles in the 200 free relay (Leslie Wendel, Charlize Escasa and Kaelyn Gridley) and 400 free relay (Olivia Safarikova, Jane Sanderson and Megan Meade).
Gridley, who joined Novelline on the 2019 IHSA-champion 200 free relay, won the 100 breaststroke and took third in the 50 free, while Escasa grabbed two seconds (100 freestyle, 100 breaststroke) and Wendel one (100 butterfly).
Sydney Holder and Amelia Haveron added a 1-2 finish in the 1-meter dive for New Trier.
Both Novelline and Gridley are four-year varsity talents who both competed in the Olympic Trials over the summer. They anchor the Trevians’ hopes for a state title this season, a year after a season without the IHSA championships because of COVID-19.
“We’re coming out of a weird pandemic season and we have a group with a good sense of perspective on the importance of team and community,” Guy said. “But we also have ambitious goals and are excited to get back to a full, competitive season.”
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