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Women move a day closer to a ninth title

Mike Tennant | Friday, February 18, 2005

The Irish started off on the right foot in their pursuit of a ninth straight Big East title, setting a couple new school records in the process.After the first day of action in East Meadow, N.Y., Notre Dame and Pittsburgh sit tied atop the leaderboard with 72 points apiece. Rutgers – runner-up the last three years – is a close third with 68 points.After Thursday’s morning preliminaries, the Irish were sitting pretty with a meet-best nine swimmers advancing to the championship finals. Notre Dame also boasted the top qualifier in three of the four events held Thursday.The Irish broke out to a fast start Wednesday, winning the very first event, the 800-yard freestyle relay. The team of freshman Caroline Johnson and sophomores Ellen Johnson, Katie Carroll and Rebecca Grove finished with a time of 7:16.95, breaking the school record by more than three seconds.The previous record had been set at last year’s Big East Championship by a team that included Ellen Johnson and Carroll.Rutgers finished second, but was more than three seconds behind the Irish squad.The Notre Dame school record was also good enough for an NCAA “B” cut, so they will be considered for a bid to the NCAA Championships. This was the first “B” cut for an Irish relay team this season. The Irish kept up the intensity Thursday with a total of 12 swimmers competing in the evening session.Fifth-year senior Meghan Perry-Eaton was the top qualifier off the 1-meter board, and will look to continue her dominance of the Big East. Her score of 297.75 was 72.6 points ahead of the next closest diver. Perry-Eaton was named Big East Championships Most Outstanding Swimmer the past two years, taking home three conference titles in that stretch.Also earning a spot in the one-meter board finals was freshman Tara Hyer, who qualified fourth with a score of 221.20Notching top marks in the prelims were sophomore Katie Carroll in the 200-yard individual medley and sophomore Ellen Johnson in the 500-yard freestyle. The 200 IM proved to be the Irish’s best event yet, posting four of the top seven times in the morning prelims. Notre Dame also sent two other swimmers to the consolation championship in the event, leaving the Irish with six swimmers able to score points for the team.Johnson posted an NCAA “B” cut in the 500 freestyle, the third “B” cut she has hit this season.In the final event of the day, the 50-yard freestyle, Caroline Johnson and Grove both qualified for the finals, finishing second and sixth, respectively. Freshman Katie Guida posted the eleventh best score, giving her a spot in the consolation championship round.