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ND Swimming opens up strong

Rama Gottumukkala | Monday, October 4, 2004

Facing an opponent not seen in years and taking part in a Notre Dame swimming tradition, the Irish swim program burst out of the blocks quickly this season, winning in impressive fashion in both the Evansville dual meet and the Dennis Stark Relays.The Notre Dame men’s and women’s teams were nearly perfect on Friday, blanketing their opponents and placing first a combined 43 times out of the evening’s 46 events. In all, 30 of the 35 athletes on the men’s roster and 26 of the 36 swimmers on the women’s roster registered at least one victory at Friday’s events.All told, the men (1-0) easily earned a 157-55 point victory in the dual meet against Evansville, a team the Irish have not faced since Notre Dame joined the Big East in 1995, and a 118-point win margin over the rest of the field in the 40th annual Stark Relays. The men finished with 248 points in the Stark Relays, breaking the record for most points ever in the meet (formerly 230 in 1997). The women (1-0) cruised to a 161-54 victory against Evansville and earned first place in the Stark Relays with 260 points, 56 more than second-place finisher Illinois State.Both Irish teams raced out to an early lead in the Evansville dual meet and never looked back. The men’s team registered top four finishes in eight of the first nine events as it built a 143-28 advantage. Equally impressive, the women’s team registered 1-2-3-4 finishes in its first six events to build up a lead of 96-18.”I think it was one of our better opening meets, really,” women’s coach Bailey Weathers said. “I thought our girls did an exceptional job of really being aggressive from the start of the meet and I think there were a lot of good swims early [for us].”The most impressive individual accomplishment of the night came from sophomore Katie Carroll, who set the sole meet record of the night for the women with a win in the 400-yard individual medley. In the first race of the season, Carroll, the 2004 Big East Championships Most Outstanding Swimmer, posted a time of 4 minutes, 22.93 seconds, which earns her consideration for a bid to next spring’s NCAA Championships.”I think Katie’s swim was probably one of her best unrested swims ever so I think it was a nice way to start the year off,” Weathers said. “I thought we had some good swims from the other girls that swam the 400 IM also, but Katie’s was pretty exceptional.”Also performing well in victories for the women were sophomore Ellen Johnson (200 freestyle, 200 backstroke), freshman Natalie Burke (100 and 200 breaststroke) and senior co-captain Kelli Barton (400 individual medley).Leading the way for the men’s team were victorious sophomores Ted Brown (400 individual medley, 200 butterfly) and Louis Cavadini (50 and 100 freestyle races), senior captain Matt Bertke (200 freestyle), juniors Doug Bauman (200 backstroke), Patrick Davis (500 freestyle) and Tyler Grenda (200 breaststroke). Brown beat the field, including last year’s Big East champion in teammate Jamie Lutkus, in the event, by more than five seconds in an exhibition heat of the 400 individual medley with a time of 4:04.42 and posted his second win in the 200 butterfly with a time of 1:53.53. Cavadini earned two early wins in the 50 and 100-yard freestyle races, posting times of 21.27 and 47.60 seconds, respectively.The Notre Dame diving squad was also dominant at Friday’s events. Solidified by freshman Sam Stoner and sophomore Scott Coyle, the five Irish men’s divers all finished ahead of Evansville’s competitors. Anchored by fifth-year senior Meghan Perry-Eaton, who finished third at last year’s NCAA Championships in the one-meter competition, the Irish women swept the diving events in the dual meet.After just the first meet of the season, 14 swimmers on the men’s team and 17 swimmers on the women’s team have already posted automatic qualifying times for the Big East Championship meet on Feb. 17-19.”I think that really helps us focus on what the big task is – which is swimming well at the meets and not so much worrying on qualifying for the [Big East Championships],” Weathers said. “We’re definitely proud of what the girls accomplished right away and looking forward to the next meet and getting some more of those things out of the way.”