CALDWELL, NJ - On the same night when revered University of Alabama football head coach Nick Saban was being lauded by just about everyone in sight for his call for an onside kick which, clearly, led to his Crimson Tide contingent clipping Clemson, 45-40, in the NCAA National Championship clash, perhaps even more capable coaching was displayed by James Caldwell High head swim squad coach Steve Trivino.
Referred to as “The Mad Scientist” by many, Trivino, a longtime Chemistry teacher at JCHS, has, perhaps, been more recognized as a deep-thinking and almost always well-prepared football mentor and the only head coach that the Caldwell swim squads have even known, with the 1978 JCHS grad bringing that attitude and ability to the school's aquatics armies and frequently out-coaching his opponents in order to guide his water warriors to otherwise seemingly unavailable accomplishments.
Well, to make a long story short, Trivino and his troops did just that again on Monday night, Jan. 11, when the JCHS girls stunned heavily-favored Montclair High, 99-71, at the Caldwell Community Center to flip the script on the Lady Mountie-Bulldogs contingent and, suddenly, become the favorite to win not only the Super Essex Conference dual meet title, but the SEC/Essex County championship meets, as well.
“Wow,” Trivino said, “Hold on now, we might just be right back in this thing and what our girls did against Montclair was just amazing.”
“Now, it's completely possible that we can repeat what did last year: win the regular season and finish first at the championships meet,” the 16-year veteran swim coach added.
Monday night's stunner left the locals at 7-1 overall and 6-1 in conference combat, while MHS fell to 5-1 on the year and 5-1 in the league loop, as well.
“Pretty much everyone who was not part of this team, and some who are, as well, realistically felt that, after we lost at Columbia (48-46 on Dec. 18 in the Lady Aqua-Cougars' antiquated four-lane pool), which is something that should never have happened, maybe this was not our year to win team titles again and Montclair was likely to do what we did last season and sweep all three championships,” said Trivino.
“Maybe we just didn't have the depth to repeat and that, maybe, we should concentrate on individual accomplishments, since this group of girls is likely to end up rewriting a whole lot of our team records,” he said.
“But, apparently, and fortunately, we still had hope and our girls had the drive to get in water and do their best and, you know what, on Monday night, their best was good enough,” said Trivino.
Known for his attention to detail and sometimes scintillating strategical showings, Trivino said he thought that, perhaps, he had found a way for his squad to just edge out MHS.
“Montclair has a fairly predictable lineup and I just looked at ways for our strengths to be in different events than Montclair's,” Trivino recounted.
“I actually figured out that we could pretty much just give them two events and still, maybe barely, win,” he stated.
“But, our girls did just an unbelievable job and outperformed anything we had any right to expect and, as a result, we won by almost thirty points; we had clinched the win after the breaststroke (when the lead ballooned to 89-67), so we didn't even have to do anything in the final relay, if we didn't want to,” he said.
The groundwork for Caldwell's shocking of Montclair High was laid in the opening event, when the Lady Aqua-Chiefs unexpectedly won the 200-yards medley relay with the foursome of seniors Alex Bambrick (backstroke) and Grace Endersby (breaststroke) and juniors Natalie Dalla Riva (butterfly) and Linnea Endersby (freestyle) totaled a first place time of 1:55.62, just 01:60 off the school record and the second fastest time in the program's history.
“That gave us an 8-6 lead after an event which I thought would give Montclair the lead; so that gave our girls a huge boost,” noted Trivino, adding, “the two events which we deliberately gave up on were the 200 IM and the butterfly, but they (Montclair) only ended up going 1-2-3 only in the IM and first and third in the 'fly, where we finished second, fourth and fifth and that made a huge difference.”
Among the locals' other highlight efforts of the day were a 1-2-3 sweep of the 500 free, where ninth-graders Jenna Dolce and Elizabeth Murphy and junior Meredith Donlin turned in times of 5:47.39, 5:48.84 and 6:11.66, respectively, a 1-2-4 in the 200 free (Dalla Riva, 2:01.19, Murray, 2:09.86, L. Endersby 2:10.09), a 1-2-5 showing in backstroke (Dalla Riva, 1:01.39, Bambrick, 1:03.53, sophomore Emily Ibarra (1:11.23) and a 2-3-4 showing in the clinching event, the breaststroke, where G. Endersby turned in a time of 1:09.66, followed by Dolce at 1:20.76 and sophomore Alyssa Krisinski at 1:26.92.
“We figured that if we gave up those two events, it would come down to a three event meet, but our girls just exceeded all expectations and totally changed our hopes for what we could do this year,” Trivino summed, adding, “while, if we go by the seeds times, on paper, we might be able to beat Montclair by four points (in the county/conference championships) on Monday (Jan. 18, MLK Day).
“But as we saw in this case, meets are won in the water, not on paper,” he said.
“So, if we want to repeat as champions, our girls are going to have to perform at least as well as they did in this win,” said Trivino.
In addition, while the battle for the regular season conference crown is far from over, unbeaten Columbia, which sports marks of 8-0 and 4-0, has yet to face perennial powers Mount Saint Dominic Academy (Jan. 14), Montclair High (Jan. 19) and Millburn (Jan. 26), while JCHS, while already beaten each of those three teams, is slated to close out its SEC slate by traveling to take on 1-8 Montclair Kimberley Academy at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26, and playing host to 1-5 Livingston in a 7:30 start two days later.