With three events to go, New Trier was your state champion. But why stop there?
The Trevians won all three of those events to cap a dominant IHSA finals performance Saturday, Nov. 13, at the FMC Natatorium in Westmont, where they won a state championship by 82 points, the largest margin of victory at a state meet in 13 seasons (2008, Rosary).
“It was an amazing meet,” Trevs coach Mac Guy said. “This was a group that was really, really good. The fact that we dominated the field to win by 82 points over some pretty good teams was pretty exceptional and I’m really pleased with their efforts.”
The team win was the 15th in program history for the Trevs and their first since 2013, when they won a fourth straight crown. New Trier finished second to Neuqua Valley in the most-recent IHSA finals in 2019.
At this year’s state meet, New Trier (182 points) claimed two state records, four first-place finishes and seven other top-10 efforts to top a field otherwise led by Barrington (100), Hinsdale Central (100), Oswego East (98) and St. Charles North (97).
The Trevs 200-yard medley relay — Carly Novelline, Kaelyn Gridley, Alexis Wendel and Charlize Escasa — kicked off the scoring with a record-setting showing, touching in at 1 minute 39.65 seconds. It is the fastest 200 medley relay time in IHSA history, topping a mark set by New Trier (Novelline, Gridley, Grace Pelzek and Joelle Ohr) two years earlier.
“When we went 1:39 in the medley relay to kick off the meet, it was pretty thrilling,” Guy said. “No school has ever been under 1:40 in state history and to better our medley relay record from two years ago by almost a full second was amazing. It was a real thrill and set the tone for the rest of the day.”
Gridley picked up New Trier’s second state record in the preliminary round on Friday, Nov. 12, when she became the first IHSA swimmer to break 1:00 in the 100 breaststroke. She swam it in 59.92 seconds.
A day later, the Duke University commit won the event in 1:00.13, while Escasa was close behind with a third-place swim at 1:03.21.
Gridley added a third-place medal in the 50 free (23.21) and was part of the second-place 200 free relay (1:32.21) with Escasa, Connie Gillum and Sanderson.
Novelline, who will swim at the University of Virginia, defended her 2019 state title (no state meet in 2020) in the 100 backstroke, clocking in at 53.46 seconds, and added a second-place swim in the 100 freestyle (49.02), an event won with a state-record time of 48.34 by Kaneland sophomore Leah Hayes.
Novelline picked up a third state championship when she joined Sanderson, Megan Meade and Leslie Wendel for the title-winning 400 free relay (3:24.83).
In the 1-meter dive, New Trier senior Sydney Holder (453.65 points) landed in third and Amelia Haverson (408.7) took 11th to total 14 team points for the Trevs.
The Wendel sisters — Alexis and Leslie — both scored in the 100 butterfly, placing seventh and 11th respectively.
Seniors — including the Wendels, Sanderson, Holder and Haverson — led this New Trier squad, while Gridley and Novelline capped two of the most electrifying tenures in program history.
“As a senior class, they haven’t lost a single (regular-season) meet since they’ve been here — undefeated dual meets, undefeated invites,” Guy said. “And certainly this state championship is pretty impressive.
“For Kaelyn and Carly, they were exceptionally dominant, and to have the two of them on the team in the same class was really an extreme stroke of luck. They bring out the best in each other. … I think it’s fair to say that one would not have been quite as good without the other.”
While the Trevians unit was senior heavy, plenty of underclassmen were on hand either participating in or witnessing the extraordinary season finale.
Escasa will lead a group next season that also includes state medalists Meade and Gillum and state qualifier Olivia Safarikova (200 free), a freshman.
“I’m really excited for the next three or four years with this program,” Guy said. “We’ve got some girls who are really hungry to do well. They want to compete at the state level, but because we have so many great seniors, they haven’t had a full opportunity to show what they can do.”