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MEN’S SWIMMING: Team hits its highest rank ever

Joe Meixell | Wednesday, November 9, 2005

With last weekend’s dramatic come-from-behind victory against Pittsburgh, the men’s swimming team moved to No. 18 in the nation, the highest ranking in the program’s history.

The Irish pulled ahead by winning 15 of a possible 17 points in the final relay of the meet. The win raised their record to 2-1 in dual meets this year.

“The meet was the definition of a team win,” junior Tim Kegelman said. “It really helped to showcase our team depth. I think the voters recognized that in the polls.”

The new ranking is part of an upward trend as Notre Dame attempts to slide into the collegiate elite.

“The improvement has been a result of two main factors: the arrival of [fourth-year assistant coach] Matt Tallman and the athletic department’s new commitment to their Olympic sports programs,” head coach Tim Welsh said.

Among other responsibilities as an assistant, Tallman is in charge of recruiting for the team. His expertise has landed three of the top recruiting classes in Notre Dame’s history.

“I’ve known [Tallman] since I was eight years old, and he’s always been good to me,” sophomore Graham Parker said. “He is very professional in his work.”

The Notre Dame athletic department also has played a role in the recent team improvements. In 2002, the athletic department decided to step up its support by providing the NCAA maximum of 9.9 team scholarships.

“People have probably always been interested in coming to Notre Dame to swim, but they opted to go elsewhere for financial reasons,” Tallman said.

The Irish swimmers also cite the hard-working attitude and passion of Welsh as a reason for their success.

“Tim is what we call the philosopher-coach,” Irish captain Patrick Hefernan said. “He thinks long and hard about everything he has us do in practice and is really passionate about the program.”

Welsh has coached at Notre Dame for the past 20 years – second in duration only to track and field coach Joe Piane in his 31st season – and has had a simple strategy since the day he arrived.

“Everyday, every practice we just try to get a little bit faster and a little bit better.” Welsh said.

Despite much improvement, his goal remains the same. Welsh’s only prediction for the future of the Irish program is that they will continue to work hard to get faster in the water.

“We have a lot of big meets coming up in the next few months where we can really show off our talent against some of the best teams around,” Kegelman said.

The team’s next challenge comes Friday in East Lansing against Michigan State.