Remembering Christie Trionfo, a special athlete, woman
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 11:00

 by Bill Gates

Saturday morning was gloomy and overcast and I had been up until 5:30 dealing with a crashed computer before staggering out of bed at 11 to catch the last couple of hours of the Girls lacrosse Playday at CCBC Essex.
    Shortly after returning home later that afternoon, I got the phone call telling me Christie Trionfo had died.
    Thirteen years ago, having been at The Eagle for about a month, I met with Christie to interview her when she was named The Eagle’s Spring Athlete of the Season.
    (“Christie” was the spelling she gave me then, and the one I used in every story I wrote about her. I understand she spells it “Kristina” now, but this column is about my memories of her.)
    She was, I’m fairly certain, the first student I interviewed after joining The Eagle.
    All I knew then was that she was reportedly a pretty good lacrosse player and was The Eagle’s Spring Athlete of the Season for the second year in a row.
    She didn’t look like I expected. Christie was a mere wisp of a girl, small and thin and not at all resembling someone who would dominate a lacrosse field.
    She may have looked skinny and frail, but Christie had steel in her. Steel, an iron will and fierce competitive determination.

Christie was also an absolute delight. Smart, funny, friendly, someone who could keep up a nonstop stream of chatter during a game — and through a mouth guard — that wasn’t so much trash talk as a stand-up monologue.
    During that first interview, I asked Christie what neighborhood she lived in. When she replied “Eastwood,” I flipped my notebook shut, stood up and said “Interview’s over.”
    I grew up in Colgate, see. And when I was growing up, Colgate and Eastwood were rivals. So I joked with Christie that I couldn’t have this award going to someone from Eastwood.
    Christie didn’t back down. “When was the last time you were in Colgate?” she shot back. “Trust me, you’d rather live in Eastwood now.”
    And we had a connection.
    We were standing on the sidelines of a lacrosse game one year later when, out of the blue, Christie remarked: “I was just thinking, this season is the last time you’ll see me play.”
    And I was thinking, this is actually the first season I’ve seen her play. But, yeah, at that point it felt like we’d known each other for much longer.
    Then I went and missed her last game in a Dundalk uniform.
    The Owls were hosting Baltimore Poly in the regional quarterfinals and I expected Dundalk to win easily.
    So, I figured I’d show up for the second half and get some pics and the final stats (there were several playoff games that week).
    When I got to the game, there was no Christie.
    Ten minutes into the game, while racing to scoop up a ground ball, Christie fell and landed awkwardly on her right arm.
    She was carried off the field on a stretcher and taken to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. She had dislocated her elbow.
    “I could feel the bone move,” she told me later. “I thought it was broken.”
    My arriving late for the game may have been a good thing. Her teammates told me Christie had been lying on the ground screaming in agony.
    Listening to her being in such pain would have been ... difficult ... for me.
    To dislocate her elbow and end her high school career chasing a ground ball in a game Dundalk would win 16-7 was, to Christie, a boring story.
    Instead, she joked about telling people the score was tied 10-10 when she scored the winning goal by diving for a pass and dislocated her elbow in the process.
    “It’s a more interesting story,” she told me.
    She could have gone to a private or parochial school and played lacrosse. But she played for Dundalk, where she was never going to get as much respect for her talent as she deserved.
    Dundalk isn’t a girls lacrosse powerhouse, and when Christie led Baltimore County in scoring with 70 goals during her junior year, Baltimore county girls lacrosse division I coaches opted not to select an all-county team rather than face having to consider a Division II/III player like Trionfo on the squad.
    Off the record, coaches at the county powers like Loch Raven, Dulaney, Towson, et al., were saying it didn’t matter how many goals Christie scored, because she was doing it against weak competition.
    That she was scoring 70 goals while usually being triple-teamed and a marked player didn’t seem to matter.
    “Three defenders from my league are just as good as one defender from their league,” Christie told me. But if it ever made her angry, she never let on: “I don’t need an award to know I’m a good player.”
    Most forget Christie also played field hockey. She wasn’t as good at it as she was at lacrosse, but she brought the same determination and desire she had on the lacrosse field.
    After the Owls defeated Eastern Tech in the first round of the regional playoffs for what was believed to be Dundalk’s first field hockey regional playoff win, ever, Christie didn’t celebrate as much as her teammates.
    “Wanting to win just one playoff game isn’t much of a goal,” she remarked to me.
    Yes, she had a competitive drive second to none. But, as I said, she was just a joy to know, always upbeat, always joking.
    She didn’t even mind — much — when, after she was named The Eagle’s Spring Athlete of the Season for the third year in a row, I spent most of the story teasing her.
    Well, c’mon — you try coming up with a fresh angle when you’re writing the same story for the third year in a row.
    So it was decided that Christie had made up Duquesne University, the Division I college in Pittsburgh which had given her an academic and lacrosse scholarships, creating everything from the odd spelling and pronunciation to the school banners and t-shirts.
    I get it. Life isn’t fair. It isn’t meant to be fair. But to lose someone like Christie, so young, and pregnant, with a husband and son ... life is unfair, but does it have to be cruel?

Dundalk High graduate Christie Trionfo, shown above from a girls lacrosse game during her senior year, was a three-time Dundalk Eagle Spring Athlete of the Season, was named to the All-Baltimore County Division II team for three years and earned an All-Baltimore County honor her senior year. She coached two NCAA Division II women’s lacrosse programs before her death last week in a traffic accident. photos by Bill Gates

   One short sleep past, we wake eternally.
  And death shall be no more.