Athlete of the Week: 10 questions with Kaelyn Gridley, New Trier swimming alumna

Kaelyn Gridley is a 2022 New Trier High School graduate who holds the state record in the 100-yard breaststroke and will attend Duke University in the fall.

1. Do you have any preswim or premeet rituals or superstitions?

Not really. Other than I like to listen to music. If I’m in a hotel room or something, my friends and I will just listen to music. Other than stretching right before my race, there’s not much else I do.

2. Why is Duke a good fit for you?

Overall I think the academic and athletic balance is insane at Duke. Also when I went and did a couple Zooms with the team, I got to talk to a bunch of people who went there and it was the one school that felt like family. I knew I was going to have a lot of fun there. … The campus just felt like home. I love everyone there. With good teammates, you can pretty much get by anything.

3. What is your dream job?

I’d be like an astronaut or something. Going out and exploring space would be cool, but that’s less realistic. I’m not going to study that or anything.

4. What is your favorite thing to do outside of the pool?

I like hanging out with my friends and kind of chilling at home. But I do really like to bake and during quarantine I got into baking a lot of cookies, and I baked homemade cake pops. These chocolate chip cookies that have an Oreo hidden inside them became my favorite thing to bake. I bake them for my friends or teammates.

5. What is the best piece of advice you have received?

I’d say the best piece of advice was from my first swim coach (Matt Zachan) when I started to get into swimming competitively. I remember he would always say, ‘If you have a lane you have a chance.’ … The mentality was he was all-in, and he passed it on to the next swim coaches. At the pre-state dinner he would give a talk and say no matter what, anyone could do anything at this meeting.

6. If you could play another sport, what would it be?

I’d love to be a skier or a snowboarder because I think the sport itself is so cool. I’m definitely not coordinated enough for it, but what they do is so cool.

7. What do you hope to accomplish as a Duke swimmer?

I’d say swimming-wise, I definitely want to make it to NCAAs (national championships) at least once. Overall, I just want to swim well in college but also I want to have a great community on the team. That’s my main goal — to be able to balance the sport and when I’m sad or something have people to lean on and learn from. Overall, just be able to grow as a swimmer and a person.

8. If you are in Walgreens with a couple bucks, what are you buying?

Probably Chapstick and some sort of candy, chocolate or something. Probably like Milk Duds. They are terrible for my teeth, but definitely what I’d be getting.

9. What is something people don’t know about you?

I have really double jointed elbows, so every time I yawn or stretch or something my elbow bends completely backwards and people start freaking out.

10. What is your favorite memory of New Trier swimming?

There are so many. I love high school season. My favorite memory is probably from this one practice where the divers would throw gummy bears in the pool and would go dive to get them, but (the swimmers) would sneak down and grab the gummy bears and take them and eat them. I tried the tradition again this year and right when I released them, coach yelled no gummy bears in the pool.


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