By Jay Cook
From its start as a fledgling team back in 2013, the Trinity Hall Monarchs swim team has developed into one of the most feared squads in the state.
After winning their first NJSIAA swimming championship last year, the team rode the wave of success into 2017, and did not disappoint any expectations they may have had.
The girls doubled-down on their preparation, and captured the quadruple crown of Shore Conference swimming: a first-place tie in the Monmouth County Championships, along with wins in the Shore Conference tournament, the NJISAA Prep “B” championship and a repeat in the NJSIAA/Parisi Speed School Non-Public “B” championship on Feb. 26 at The College of New Jersey.
That win was Trinity Hall’s second consecutive NJSIAA win over Villa Walsh Academy, another state swimming powerhouse in Morristown.
For head coach Alyssa Morreale, the vast success this season was a culmination of hard work and preparation.
“It was definitely our goal when we started the season,” she said of winning all four tournaments. “We knew we had the opportunity to, if the cards fell in place and we swam well at the big meets.”
“There’s a lot of work that goes in, both in and out of the pool, not just during the high school swim season,” she added.
The program began with Morreale, a former University of Notre Dame swimmer, and nine freshmen girls, all dealing with the challenges of attending a new school and just being a kid in high school.
Of those nine, three have become standout-swimmers who have anchored much of Trinity Hall’s success since the all-girls academy opened. Those three, who will continue their athletic careers to college next fall, are Caroline Gmelich (University of Virginia), Malia Wolf (Lehigh University) and Lily Scott (Bates College).
Their close bond is one that has transcended the water to create life-long friendships.
“We go to school together, we swim together, and we’re friends outside of that,” said Wolf. “It’s just going to be kind of weird to not swim with them next year.”
The girls have been connected even prior to their years at Trinity Hall. Scott and Gmelich were next-door neighbors for years, and Wolf and Gmelich have swum together at Central Jersey Aquatic Club for the last eight years. They all also work as lifeguards over the summer in Sea Girt, Long Branch and Bradley Beach.
It was also their combination on the relay team that helped fuel the Monarchs’ success over the past four years. They were three of the four swimmers on the 200- meter medley relay since their freshman years. Between hyping each other up from the diving boards during each heat or picking up the slack from a less-than- optimal start, this trio helped create the dominant early run in Trinity Hall’s existence.
“When we star ted the program with nine freshmen, we knew we had a really talented group with a lot of potential,” said Morreale. “If we could just continue to build, and get a little more depth each year, we knew we could be right here by their senior year.”
“The team is really close, and we get fired up before each meet,” said Gmelich. “The bus rides and all of the other stuff, those are the best parts.”
During their 9 a.m. break from classes on Tuesday morning, Morreale and the trio were going through the celebration pictures on a laptop, already reminiscing on a truly remarkable run.
“It’s honestly so humbling because there’s so much talent on this team,” said Scott. “To win all of these titles, it has been an all-around team effort from all the different classes.”
While they may be going different ways after this upcoming summer, Gmelich, Wolf and Scott all decided they want to be part of Trinity Hall’s future swim teams. Just like before their own races, they anticipate returning to help cheer on next year’s team, continuing the culture they have helped cultivate.
“On Sunday, it was bittersweet to have actually reached that goal,” said Morreale, while wiping away a tear. “It’s going to be really sad to see them go, but we know they started something that we’ll work to continue.”
This article was first published in the March 2-9, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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