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Irish win 8th straight Big East championship

Matt Puglisi | Monday, February 23, 2004

The Irish have a love-eight relationship with the Big East Championships.For the eighth consecutive year, the No. 20 Irish (8-2) walked into New York, stomped on the competition and strolled out with a conference title as Notre Dame (725.5) rode outstanding performances from freshman Katie Carroll and senior Meghan Perry-Eaton to a 173.5-point victory over second place Rutgers (551).”I think we’d have liked to swim a little faster,” coach Bailey Weathers said. “We swam well in some events, but we should have swum faster in others.”Carroll became only the fourth freshman and third Notre Dame swimmer in Big East Championship history to win three races at the meet, triumphing in the 200-yard individual medley, 100-yard breaststroke and 100-yard freestyle. Carroll took home the Big East Championship’s Most Outstanding Swimmer award in recognition of her impressive performance.”Katie is just extremely versatile,” Weathers said. “She won a stroke event, an individual medley and a sprint, which is pretty unusual.” Perry-Eaton, the 2003 Big East Diver of the Year, continued her season-long dominance as the senior swept the diving events, winning both the 1- and 3-meter boards en route to being named Most Outstanding Diver. Despite a record-breaking victory by Carroll in the 200-yard individual medley – the freshman broke both the Notre Dame and Big East Championship mark – and first place finishes by Perry-Eaton (1-meter board) and the 200-yard freestyle relay team (Carroll, freshman Rebecca Grove, junior Katie Eckholt and senior Danielle Hulick), the Irish found themselves in second place, trailing Rutgers by five points at the end of action on Thursday night.”We’ve been behind a number of times in the past and were able to come back,” Weathers said. “The first day has traditionally been a weaker day for us. We had a lot of girls that didn’t swim [Thursday].”The Rutgers lead wouldn’t last long as Carroll (100-yard breaststroke) and Perry-Eaton (3-meter board) each won their second event in as many days to propel the Irish to a commanding 503.5-419 advantage over the Scarlet Knights at the end of the meet’s second day. Senior Marie Labosky also claimed an event victory for the Irish in the 400-yard individual medley and on the 800-yard freestyle relay team (Carroll, Ellen Johnson, Ann Barton and co-captain Lisa Garcia) broke the second oldest Irish swimming record to conclude Friday’s action.The meet’s results were hardly in doubt by the final day as Carroll finished off her tri-fecta with a victory in the 100-yard freestyle and the Irish coasted to their eighth straight conference championship.What’s next for the Irish remains somewhat of a mystery. Notre Dame is currently scheduled to participate in the Gopher Invite in Minneapolis Sunday in a so-called “last-chance” meet. The Irish are also considering competing in a meet at Purdue in place of the Gopher Invite. Perry-Eaton will compete in the NCAA Zone C diving meet March 12-13 in Bloomington, Ind., as she attempts to return to the NCAA Championships where she finished ninth a year ago. As of right now, Carroll is the only Irish swimmer guaranteed a spot at the NCAA Championships in College Station, Texas, March 18-20. However, seven other Notre Dame swimmers – Barton, Garcia, Grove, Hulick, Johnson, Laboksy and Courtney Choura – in addition to four relay teams (200 freestyle, 400 freestyle, 800 freestyle and 400 medley) could receive invites to the meet.”I think Meghan has a great chance to qualify in diving,” Weathers said. “We won’t know about the others for a few weeks, but I hope we will qualify a couple more girls.”