Aging out of the Scarsdale summer swim and dive program can be an emotional thing, especially for those who were born to be there.
That’s the case with Kelsy Hogan, the fourth Hogan to swim for coach Inga DeNunzio, who was taught by Hogan’s mom Nancy Tostanoski when DeNunzio herself started as a youngster at the Scarsdale village pool.
Kelsy’s older brothers, Brian and Colin, were both serious swimmers who competed for Scarsdale in the summers, Iona Prep for high school and Yale and Williams, respectively for college, in addition to club swimming year-round. Older sister Maeve also competed for Scarsdale and while Kelsy isn’t a major competitive swimmer, she knew that after taking last summer off she needed to return to the team for her final season.
“This team has always been something I came back to,” Kelsy said. “It’s been such a loving environment.
Even at 7:30 a.m. “There’s something about the pain of getting up for 7:30 practice and it’s just even though you don’t want to be there in the moment it’s just one of those things that you miss it if you’re not there,” Kelsy said. “I missed the first week, so it was rough at first, but I was like, ‘Let’s do it.’ I was ready to be thrown in the pool.”
And then there’s the DeNunzio connection. “Inga I’ve known since before I literally even existed, before I was on this planet I knew her,” Kelsy said. Is that possible? “Apparently it is because it happened,” Kelsy said.
The rising Scarsdale High School junior knows it’s the end of an era, a full circle family tradition that for her had roots in DeNunzio being her mom’s personal trainer when she was pregnant with the youngest Hogan.
“This has been a part of my family, a part of my life for my whole being,” Kelsy said. “It’s just something that even though I’m not a swimmer throughout the year this is something I couldn’t stop doing. Not being able to do it anymore is going to be weird.”
Until perhaps a Hogan grandchild swims for the team in the coming years, DeNunzio is now left to carry on the legacy.
“I’ve known Kelsy pre-birth,” DeNunzio said. “That’s going to be a hard one. She wasn’t on the team for a while and she’s back to swim and it’s hard. Her siblings came by to say, ‘Hi,’ and I was like, ‘I can’t do this.’ If Brett came back with them I would have lost it. He’s the oldest. And he’s always been Brian, but that was only to a certain grouping and now he’s Brian to everyone, but he’s not going to be Brian to me. He’ll be Brett.”
While Kelsy isn’t one of the top swimmers and likely ends her competitive career this summer, swimming will remain a part of her life. She teaches lessons at a camp, which she finds extremely rewarding. She works with nonswimmers and to see those kids joining their camp groups in the water by the end of the summer makes all the years she’s put into the sport worthwhile.
“We grew up in an environment where my parents wanted us to know how to swim,” Kelsy said. “We go to the beach every summer, so that was just really important to my parents. Having this skill is really important to me. Even though I joke that I’m not that good at it I know that if needed I have that ability, which is really cool. Now I’m swim instructing at a day camp.”
Danielle Lemisch just graduated from Scarsdale High School and is enjoying her summer finale before she heads off to compete at Lafayette. She joined Scarsdale’s summer team when she was 9 or 10, coming over from rival Lake Isle.
“What’s really special about the summer team is definitely the camaraderie,” Lemisch said. “It’s just as competitive as winter swimming, but it’s with the added community feel. It’s really special because you have the little kids.”
Lemisch gets to serve as a mentor to the young ones. She sees the excitement when they compete in their first race or get their first placing. “I remember being the little kid and seeing how cool the older kids looked when they held our hands before the race,” Lemisch said. “It’s really kind of surreal to be the older kid now helping the younger kids. It’s really special.”
Lemisch, who leaves younger brother Ari to represent the family next summer, has embraced the lifetime sport and after swim practices and meets she stays at the pool to work as a lifeguard. She called it “a lifestyle.”
Lemisch’s mom may not have taught DeNunzio how to swim, nor did DeNunzio teach Lemisch how to swim, but there is still a strong bond between coach and swimmer.
“Inga’s been great because she treats you the same whether you’re the fastest swimmer or the slowest swimmer,” Lemisch said. “She really teaches teamwork, how to be a team player. And she makes 7:30 practices when it’s freezing cold out a lot of fun. I’m going to miss her.”
DeNunzio claims it takes “seconds” for her to connect with youngsters and she’s not wrong.
“I read kids really well and I enjoy them,” DeNunzio said. “I don’t want to say I’m mentally close to their age, but I’m probably more leveled to kids than I am to adults. And they’re so darn cute.”
That’s why saying goodbye is never easy. In fact, “graduation” is her least favorite part of coaching. “I hate it,” she said. “I hate it a lot.”
“You get to know them and you’ve known them for so long,” DeNunzio said. “And with swimming most of the time they swim year-round, so I see them year-round. And then you have to say goodbye. I had to say goodbye to Alex Eforo three times in the last year. Three times: last summer, the winter and then spring for track. But he’s here (as an assistant coach) and he won’t leave me.”
The other grad this summer will be Aidan Wilson, who moved to Scarsdale a handful of years ago. “He was so small and now he’s so tall,” DeNunzio said.
One swimmer recently asked DeNunzio if she knows all 100-plus kids on the team. “I stopped and I was like, ‘I do. I think I do,’” DeNunzio said.
And to know them is to love them, which is why graduation is such a difficult time of year.