Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 49
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

HIGH FLYER: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Derek Colaizzo shows his butterfly form in a workout last winter. Colaizzo, who help PHS reach the state Public B semifinal last year as a freshman, got his sophomore season off to quick start as he won two individual events and a relay in the Little Tigers’ 111-59 win over Hightstown last week. In upcoming action, PHS hosts Robbinsville on December 15.

Boasting Battle-Tested Core of Young Talent, PHS Boys’ Swimming Has the Depth to Excel

Bill Alden

As the Princeton High boys’ swimming team produced a stirring state tournament run last winter that culminated in a trip to the state Public B semifinals, PHS head coach Greg Hand saw his corps of freshman swimmers come of age.

While PHS featured a pair of stellar senior stars in Sean MacKenzie and Alex Zantal, it was the team’s corps of freshmen, Derek Colaizzo, Harun Filipovic, Addison Hebert, Victor Honore, Matt Kuhlik, and Nick Zantal, that provided the depth needed to earn the Central Jersey sectional title.

In the wake of seeing his team starting the 2009-10 season with a 111-59 win over Hightstown last week, Hand believes that last year’s tournament run is paying dividends.

“I think one great result from last year’s state run was that we really meshed as a team,” said Hand, who is in his 14th season guiding the program.

“The club swimmers are frequently on deck but not as fully integrated as the others. It was a chance to pull things together and to get new levels of commitment and excitement. It feels like it has carried over.”

Hand is expecting big things from last year’s neophytes now that they are battle-tested sophomores.

“We have a solid nucleus of club swimmers who are a year older,” said Hand, noting the Colaizzo won two individual events and a relay in the victory over Hightstown. “Each of them has improved.”

The Little Tigers boast a solid core of leaders in senior captains Dale Dewey, Andrew Gallagher, and John Wu.

“Those guys really get it; it is really exciting from a coaching point of view to see the kids put themselves in a spot to be called on to lead,” added Hand, whose team is next in action when it hosts Robbinsville on December 15.

“They have seen a lot of leadership but the challenge is to actually find out how it is going to work for them. The team is different every year; the kids are a year older. They come into the year with new perceptions and expectations.”

Hand is expecting big things from junior captain Peter Deardorff, who has distinguished himself in and out of the pool during his first two seasons for the Little Tigers.

“We have never made a junior captain before,” said Hand, referring to Deardorff, a star in the 200 and 500 freestyle events. “It is a tribute to his leadership and his obvious commitment to the team.”

PHS is getting commitment throughout the lineup. “I think we have a reasonable amount of depth for what it takes to do well,” said Hand, noting that he has three solid swimmers in just about every event.

“When it gets to the type of meets where we are not good enough to roll over someone to win, we will need to be very sharp on meet day from the strongest swimmer to the weakest swimmer. We have to figure out if we can do that.”

While Hand isn’t about to predict another sectional title, he believes his team could be a force come tournament time.

“I am real happy with how things have been going so far,” said Hand. “When you have a solid young core, you don’t feel like you have to get things done this year and things can just happen. Sometimes that is the best position to be in.”

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