The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



MEN’S SWIMMING: Seniors go out in style in Shamrock Classic

Jack Thornton | Friday, January 27, 2006

The Notre Dame men will simulataneously “go big” and “go home” to finish its regular season this weekend, as it hosts the first annual Shamrock Invitational, a tournament-style meet boasting an impressive field.

The Irish traditionally end the season with a dual meet against a familiar foe such as Oakland (Mich.) or Cleveland State, but this season the program decided to shake things up a bit.

“We had a Shamrock Classic meet once upon a time, but that had an entirely different focus,” Irish coach Tim Welsh said. “This is the first time we’ve had a season-ending grand finale, and we’re pretty excited [be]cause it’s a great way to end the dual meet season.”

No. 21 Penn State, Missouri, Louisville and Oakland (Mich.) will compete with Notre Dame in the match.

“It is a very, very good field,” Welsh said. “Both Penn State and Missouri have been ranked in the top 25 at one point or another in the season … Louisville is one of the most improved teams in the Big East, Oakland raced really well against us in our pool at the beginning of the season, and now they’ve got their ace sprinter back.” (WHO)

Unlike a regular dual meet, which has 11-13 events, the Shamrock Invitational will feature 20 events to be raced in three sessions over two days.

“There are three sessions to this meet and there are three days of the [Big East] championship meet, so each one of these sessions is [like] a day at the championship,” said Welsh, who will try to coach the Irish to their second consecutive conference title this Feb. 15-18 in Long Island, N.Y.

Of the 20 events, five will be relays, putting extra pressure on the team’s sprinters.

“Any time that we can race our relays can only be a positive for us, because relays – come Big East time – will be very crucial in order for us to win the Big East title,” Irish swimmer Ted Brown said. “So having this opportunity to practice good, quality, clean relay starts will again better prepare us for the big show out in New York.”

Following the meet, the Irish will have two-and-a-half weeks to prepare for the Championships, and they may need half of it just for sleep. The squad trained every day for two weeks over Winter Break, and this will be their third consecutive weekend of multiple-day racing.

“I think [fatigue] is always a factor, but I think at this point in our season we should be ready to race, so having a meet over the course of two days should be good for us,” co-captain Patrick Heffernan said.

Welsh said the main thing he’ll be looking for this weekend is improvement from his team.

“In the best of all possible worlds, this will be the fastest meet of season – by a lot,” Welsh said.

In addition to being the last meet of the regular season, it is also the last home meet for the seniors at Rolfs Aquatic Center – ever.

Heffernan is one of 10 seniors on the team who will be honored in a presentation Saturday night at 5:15 p.m.

“Quite a few of the seniors parents are coming up, [be]cause it’s our Gold game … and it’s the last time we’ll racing in Rolfs Aquatic Center,” Heffernan said.

When asked if he’ll cry during the ceremony, Heffernan laughed and replied, “Nah, I don’t think so.

“I think it’ll just be a milestone in my career and it’ll be exciting and it’ll be sad at the same time, but it’s an experience I’ll never forget.