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ND MEN’S SWIMMING: Irish win fifth consecutive Notre Dame Invite

Dan Murphy | Monday, December 5, 2005

The Irish swimming and diving team continued to dominate at home this weekend with their fifth consecutive first-place finish at the Notre Dame Invitational.

Notre Dame has yet to lose at Rolfs Aquatic Center this year and has only suffered defeat once in South Bend since the 2003-04 season – a stretch that includes eight dual meet victories and six first-places finishes in tournaments. Its only loss came last year in a 163-134 loss to a strong Northwestern team.

“Being at Rolfs is where we are most comfortable.” Irish captain Patrick Hefernan said. “It’s where we train every day, and everyone is always ready to swim at home.”

The Irish were ready this weekend as they came out strong, opening up a 400-point lead on the first night of competition. The team led from the first race until the last.

Over the three-day meet, Notre Dame was able to pile up 2,813 points – almost twice as many as its closest competition, Utah, who ended with 1,366.

Many of the individual swimmers and divers had career-best weekends while helping the team to their overall title. Jay Vanden Berg placed first in both the 500 and 1,650 free style races while posting his season’s best times in both events.

The diving team helped out the Irish with Michael Bulfin and Sam Stoner achieving their highest combined scores since arriving at Notre Dame.

Chris Barnes also had a career day by qualifying for the Big East conference meet for the first time in his career in both the 100 and 200 freestyle events.

“This was my last Notre Dame Invitational and our last meet of the semester, so it was crucial for all of us to get good swims in before our Christmas training trip,” Barnes said.

The Irish begin training for the second semester almost immediately. Irish coach Tim Welsh gave his team little time to celebrate, as they will be back in the pool for practice on Monday morning, focused on their ultimate goal of the season, defending their Big East Championship.

This weekend’s invitational, which Welsh referred to as a “dress rehearsal” for the Big East Tournament, left Notre Dame feeling confident about the second semester of their season.

“We have a little ways to go, but compared to this point last year, I think we are doing very well,” Hefernan said.

No. 19 Notre Dame does not swim again until Jan. 13 when they take on Evansville on the road. Only a month remains before the conclusion of the season in Long Island, N.Y.

“If we continue to swim as well as we have been and then exceed some of our own lofty expectations, then the Big East championship will be something special to see,” Barnes said.