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Swimming Success Is in Family DNA

Sachem North’s James Donlevy continues his family’s tradition of excellence in the pool.

Sachem North swimming coach Larry Saposnick recalls an early encounter with his star athlete, junior James Donlevy.

“When I met James, he was saying that he really wasn’t that into being a swimmer,” Saposnick said. But it was seemingly inevitable that at some point, Donlevy would be swimming for Saposnick.

Long before Donlevy became Sachem’s top swimmer, older siblings had already left their mark in the Sachem pool. Oldest brother Kevin, now 26, and twin siblings Gerard and Megan, 23, have their names on the Sachem Natatorium wall for their top performances.

“I’d like to have my name up there,” Donlevy said. “To be tops in an event.”

If Donlevy joins his siblings in the record books, it will probably be in either the 50- or 100-meter freestyle. But it’s hard to limit it to just these two, Saposnick said.

“I expect James to be the county champion in the 50 and 100. But if I was allowed, I’d have him swimming in every event,” the 12th-year coach said.

Like many of Sachem’s top swimmers, Donlevy first got a taste of competitive swimming when he joined swim clubs, first the North Shore Swim Club and later, when he was in the fifth grade, in the Sachem Swim Club.

“[Competitive swimming] kind of grew on me,” Donlevy said. “I started to like it when I began doing well. The competition in the swimming club is tougher. Everyone trains year round, and you have higher meets. You can compete nationally.”

Saposnick said that he pulls his best swimmers from the Sachem Swim Club, which is coached by Saposnick’s assistant, Al Scott, who is also Sachem North girls swim coach. So he’s not usually hard pressed to fill out his roster. This year’s 2011 squad has 24 swimmers and features seniors Adam Enzinger, Craig Lyon and Steve Penteck, and juniors Donlevy and Greg Coleman.

Last year’s team finished 7-3, good for third place in League I, which features perennial top-ranked Half Hollow Hills and Ward Melville.”

“I would like to beat Ward Melville this year,” Saposnick said, “and push Hills a little bit.” To that end, Saposnick will look to Donlevy for leadership, as the junior was named captain of this year’s squad.

“He’ll do anything I ask. He works hard, cheers on the other swimmers. He’s your typical team leader,” Saposnick said. “He’ll put in 20 – 26 hours in the pool every week during the season.”

“It’s my job to look out for everyone, making sure everyone is doing the right things. I like to encourage them, and it’s fun to yell at them,” Donlevy said with a smile.

While Donlevy has his sites set at team records and county titles, he’s also begun considering colleges. And while he might have considered Syracuse (where his mother swam) or Stony Brook (where his dad was also a collegiate swimmer), the youngest Donlevy is considering the University of Massachusetts, due to their engineering programs.

But that’s more than a year away, and he has lots more to accomplish in the pool. And in the Sachem record books.

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