IN THE SPOTLIGHT
The Gridley twins were 2 when they just had to see the boats outside the family condo one early morning in Florida.
The problem: Neither could reach high enough to open a door.
The solution: Ryan Gridley got down on all fours, and Patrick Gridley mounted his brother’s back to turn a knob and open the door.
Freedom — at 6 a.m.
The twins tottered toward a body of water.
“A canal,” Patrick, now a senior, recalled after a New Trier swimming practice last week in Winnetka.
“We were always getting into trouble,” Ryan added. “Patrick was ‘Search’ and I was ‘Destroy.’
“We sat together on a pier that day, with our feet dangling.”
Dangling from their necks, after the boys state swimming and diving meet at Evanston Township High School on Feb. 24?
Lots and lots of medals.
The 6-foot-4, 170-pound Ryan Gridley swam on all three relays and helped two of them (200-yard medley and 400 freestyle) capture gold; he served as the anchor leg of the Trevians’ fifth-place 200 free unit, and he finished runner-up in the 100 free with a personal-best time of 45.12.
Patrick Gridley, slightly smaller (6-3 ½) and a tad lighter (165 pounds) than Ryan?
He matched his twin as a two-time relay champion, sped to runner-up honors in the 1oo backstroke (personal-best 49.08) and took fifth in the 200 IM (1:51.01), as New Trier (161 points) edged two-time reigning state champion Lyons Township (150.5) to claim its 24th state title in program history and its first since winning a third straight championship in 2013.
“Two of the nicest kids you’re ever going to meet,” said NT coach Josh Runkle, whose first season (2014-15) as the Trevians’ head coach was the season he welcomed “tall and skinny” freshmen Patrick and Ryan Gridley into his varsity fold.
“Mature kids, too,” the coach added. “Ryan sat down with my wife, Amy, after a meet and just started talking … about all kinds of things. My daughter [Ellie, 8] has a picture of the Gridley twins in her room. She loves them, and she cried at our Senior Night, thinking she’d never get to see them again. I told her to settle down; they’re going to study and swim at Northwestern. She asked, ‘Where’s that?’ I told her, ‘Just down the road.’ ”
Right around the corner is April Fools’ Day, and if you’re a Gridley twin, it’s one of your favorite days of the year. Patrick attended Ryan’s classes and Ryan attended Patrick’s classes on April 1 in the fifth grade to see how long they could get away with pulling off the fun scheme.
Ryan plays the tuba for the school band; Patrick plays the bassoon. Neither knows how to play the other’s instrument, but that didn’t stop Ryan from becoming a bassoonist and Patrick from becoming a tubist on an April 1 a couple of years ago during a band practice.
The band director did not like what he heard that day.
“Our poor older brother [Brendan, a sophomore at the University of Michigan College of Engineering] had to deal with us when we were little,” Patrick said. “He liked to line up his small toy cars in his room, all in order. We’d go in there and crash them.
“We often wore different shirts then,” Ryan added. “Patrick wore a blue one; I wore a red one. I remember Brendan yelling to our parents [John and Jeanette], ‘The red one’s causing trouble again!’ ”
The Gridley twins swam for the blue, green and gray (NT’s school colors) last weekend and came up big in crunch time. NT had a 100-97.5 lead on LT before the start of the 100 backstroke championship final (event 10 of 12). Patrick had recorded a 50.27 (fourth fastest) in the prelim session; LT senior Spencer Walker had clocked a prelim-best 47.22.
Patrick’s zippy runner-up time of 49.08 was worth 13 points, but Walker’s first-place time of 48.11 gave the Lions a 113.5-113 edge with the 100 breaststroke and 400 free relay remaining.
NT Nation shrugged.
It had nothing to worry about, because up next was Trevians senior and University of Texas recruit Charlie Scheinfeld, the two-time reigning state champ in the 100 breaststroke.
“Our hammer,” Runkle would say after the meet.
Scheinfeld — who had set the state record (53.6) in the prelim session — pounded his way to another triumph in the event, going 53.72, well in front of LT’s entrant (junior Michael Walsh, fourth place, 56.12) in the heat.
The standings at the top after 11 events: New Trier 129, LT 124.5.
Winner of the final event would get to celebrate a state championship. NT’s 400 free foursome of senior Ean Vandergraaf, Ryan Gridley, Patrick Gridley and Scheinfeld had nipped LT’s crew 3:02.79-3:02.99 in the prelims for the top seed in the championship heat.
LT senior lead-off leg Henry Claesson gave his ensemble a two-plus-second lead after 100 yards in the final on Feb. 24; Ryan Gridley closed the gap with a 44.53 split; Patrick Gridley went 45.09 to give the Trevians a fairly comfortable advantage; and Scheinfeld, relying on adrenaline and sheer will, zoomed to a 44.33.
The roar of the crowd abated briefly as all eyes zeroed in at the scoreboard in the Wildkits’ natatorium.
NT Nation saw a “1” and a “3:01.29” next to “NT” (Lane 3) and immediately filled the place with more deafening cheers.
LT (Lane 4) settled for silver with a 3:03.05.
“It’s never been about state championships with this program,” Runkle insisted after New Trier’s elated boys and coaches bobbed and whooped it up and passed around the top trophy in the pool. “It’s about hoping our kids become better students and better people through swimming.”
Runkle did not have to hope last weekend.
He had at least two cases in point:
Notable: NT’s 200 medley relay of Patrick Gridley, Charlie Scheinfeld, Ryan Gridley and sophomore Pearce Bailey combined for a state-record 1:29.53 in the prelims at the state swimming and diving meet at Evanston on Feb. 23. The fast bunch then won the state championship with a 1:30.13 the next day. … Bailey had to compete in a prelim swim-off with Pekin co-op senior Jack Marlatt to secure the 12th and final spot in the consolation final of the 50 free; he advanced with a 21.08 (to Marlatt’s 21.14) and then touched eighth the next day with a 21.26. … Ryan Gridley anchored the fifth-place 200 free relay (1:24.41) after legs from Pearce, junior Nick Torre and senior Pierson Ohr. … Trevians senior Ean Vandergraaf contributed a combined four team points with his showings in the 500 free (10th place, 4:36.22) and 200 free (12th, 1:43.43). … The father of NT senior twins Patrick and Ryan Gridley, John Gridley, teaches science and coaches tennis (sophomore boys, freshman girls) at New Trier. The NTHS graduate finished fourth in doubles with Eric Lo at the 1987 state tennis meet and took third in doubles with Lo at the ’88 state meet.