Notre Dame senior Owen Bossio, one of the team's top swimmers, watches action during a meet along with Irish coach Henry DeSandre. Photo courtesy of Joe Bossio/
Notre Dame senior Owen Bossio, one of the team's top swimmers, watches action during a meet along with Irish coach Henry DeSandre. Photo courtesy of Joe Bossio/

Henry DeSandre has coached swimming for a long time and knows one thing for certain – having a few standouts on the team is nice when the big individual meets come around, but dual meets are won with talent and depth.

Or, in the modern vernacular, it takes a village.  

Notre Dame High, Lawrenceville, has that village this year as the Irish boys’ team carried a 9-1 record into its Jan. 20 meet with Ewing. The lone loss came to undefeated Princeton Jan. 3.

“We had quite a nice complement of young men that came in, which really set the season up to have a different look,” DeSandre said. “One of them has a tremendous amount of talent – our freshman Gennaro Dito. But we have a lot of other young swimmers that are developing and they’re doing fantastic this year, so they really surrounded our veterans that were coming back.”

With that mixture, ND has become one of the Colonial Valley Conference’s top teams after finishing 8-4 last year.  

“The new guys have put us in a stronger competitive situation,” DeSandre continued. We are able to be competitive. We didn’t know how we’d stack up against the conference but we’re doing very well. They’re training well, they’re very, very positive about who they are and like I’ve always said, we stay humble.”

Two key returnees are senior Owen Bossio and sophomore Gavin Bossio. The brothers have combined to swim in all three relays and every individual event multiple times, having teamed up for 40 first-place finishes. Their versatility gives DeSandre numerous options if a meet comes down to a chess match.

“They both have intensity, but Owen has a level of intensity on performance where he is probably too hard on himself,” DeSandre said. “Gavin will evaluate where he’s at and you can get a different feel from [him]. Each of them has a different approach, but both have the intensity to perform at their peak when they’re called upon.”

James MacIsaac is the other returning senior along with Owen Bossio, and has won 18 races competing in the three relays, the 200 free, 200 IM, and 500 freestyle. Another veteran who has delivered as expected is junior Gabe Czarnecki, with 20 victories in the 100 back, 100 free, 200 free, 200 free relay and 200 medley relay.

Not mentioned in those totals are a plethora of second- and third-place finishes for each swimmer.

One of the top newcomers is Dito, who has a team-high 23 victories in the three relays, the 200 IM, 100 breast and 100 free.

“I did not know much about him but has a tremendous amount of talent,” DeSandre said. “He’s one of our top swimmers.”

The coach is quick to add that top swimmers alone will not make a great team.

“I don’t like to put some people on a pedestal when there are so many others who have value,” said DeSandre, who went on to list those other key components.

Six of those swimmers are juniors Zach Duck (10 firsts, 14 seconds), Talon Arbizu, Finn Schmitz and Matt Weaverling, and sophomores Nolan Schmitz and Chris Valentino.

“Talon has done a lot of things to make himself very competitive at other places and also training with us,” DeSandre said. “Zach has raised the bar up and been an impact swimmer. He’s one of our top guys to go to. Finn Schmitz and his brother Nolan came in last year and they’re fitting into our IM and breaststroke.”

The coach added that “Chris Valentino is gaining by leaps and bounds and works into our fly situation. I also use him in distance. Matt Weaverling has taken a big step up, working into our backstroke. He has taken a whole different look at how he trains and he’s just developing.”  

Three freshmen have also come in to contribute right away: Shaun Appert, Jacob Stinson and Jamison Tormey.

“Shaun is developing tremendously,” DeSandre said. “He’s in an age group program and also training with us, and he’s doing fantastic with time drops. We’re switching some events with him, and he’s done very well. Stinson is multi-purpose but working into our IM and fly; he’s got a good fly developing. And Jamison Tormey was working in our sprints and backstroke, but he has the capacity to go anywhere we need to use him. He’s one of our front-line starters.”

It is a cast of characters that have made this the most enjoyable season Owen Bossio has ever experienced.

“I’m so proud of the guys,” the fourth-year varsity swimmer said. “Every single night I get in that pool, it feels like we’re all pushing to get better. In the middle of practice, we’ll all race each other because we’re that competitive and want to continue to get that good. The commitment is there, the performance is there. Also, just the bond. We always have a laugh, we always enjoy being around each other.”