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MEN’S SWIMMING: Irish win title, break six meet records at Relays

Jack Thornton | Monday, October 10, 2005

The men’s swimming team dominated the competition at the 41st annual Dennis Starks Relays Friday, breaking six meet records and proving this might be one of the fastest Irish squads ever.

“We performed very well,” Irish coach Tim Welsh said. “The things we were looking for, we saw. We had speed, aggression, technique … everything looked sound.”

The Irish took first place, winning 10 events for 254 points, outscoring second-place Ball State by 92 points. Oakland (Michigan) took third with 140 points, followed by Wisconsin-Milwaukee (102), Valparaiso (78), Cleveland State (70) and Marquette (38).

Before the meet, Welsh insisted the Irish would be focused more on racing the clock than their opponents. In taking down half a dozen records out of 13 events, the Irish essentially dropkicked the clock in the face.

“The number of relay records broken is important, because most of them were ours and were set very recently, so in terms of comparing ourselves to last year at this time, we’re looking very good,” Welsh said.

The first record fell in the 400-yard medley relay. Though the Irish finished second to Oakland’s time of 3:26.76, senior Doug Bauman, senior Tyler Grenda, junior Ted Brown and junior Louis Cavadini cashed in a time of 3:27.71, still better than Notre Dame’s previous meet record of 3:29.84 from 2003.

“It takes a while to get used to being the first meet of the year but it’s nice to get a change of pace from practice,” said Bauman, who was also part of the team that broke the 400 freestyle relay record.

The Irish then smashed the 800 freestyle relay record – twice – an accomplishment that displays the depth of this year’s team.

“The team depth is what we wanted to see,” Welsh said. “Relay meets measure depth, and in some cases, we went faster than we’ve been in one, but also faster in two, which means that we’re eight-deep. I think team depth might be the most important thing we get out of this meet.”

The squad is going to need to be both fast and deep with the toughest schedule in school history. “Our first three home meets will be against top 25 teams and that’s never happened before,” Welsh said. “This is our toughest schedule ever, and our second-toughest was last year. But this isn’t a pity party; this was done by design. We want it to be tougher and we’re going to rise to the challenge.”

For the meantime, though, the Irish were able to swim in the relatively low-pressure atmosphere of an exhibition relay.

“It’s a good first meet. It’s rather fun and a great experience for the freshmen, and the team in general to work out the kinks, get in the groove of racing,” said junior Tim Kegelmen, who set records in the 400 individual medley relay and the 400 breaststroke relay.

Kegelmen, who last year became the first Irish swimmer ever to qualify for the NCAA Championships, is aiming to build on his success this year.

“My personal goal is to first get back to the NCAAs and then to score at them,” he said. “Put Notre Dame on the scoreboard there, that’ll be big.”

Welsh had plenty of other positives to say about his defending Big East Champion team.

“I thought the overall spirit of the team and energy with which we raced was very encouraging,” Welsh said. “If this were theater, this meet is like a dress rehearsal in front of a live audience … It’s like playing in Chicago for three months and then moving on to New York. This is a very good start compared to us at this time last year.”

Senior Chris Barnes pointed to the other benefits of the meet, such as checking out the new talent.

“It’s a good opportunity for everyone to swim, and it gives us a chance to gauge the freshmen, see what they’ve got,” said Barnes, whose teams finished first in the 200 freestyle relay and the 500 crescendo relay.

The Irish also broke records in the 1,000 freestyle relay and the 400 backstroke relay, and swept both the one-meter relay format and the three-meter synchronized diving events.

“This was a nice release for all the work we’ve done,” Kegelmen said. “We’ve been practicing for over a month now, doing a lot of work and now we get to show it off.”