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Women’s Swimming: Irish looking for eleventh straight Big East title

Greg Arbogast | Tuesday, February 14, 2006

When the Big East Championships begin Wednesday in East Meadow, N.Y., Notre Dame is looking to pick up where it left off – in more ways than one.

The Irish have sat idle for almost three weeks but have won their last seven events this season. They also have captured the past 10 Big East titles. Notre Dame wants to make sure both streaks continue.

The No. 20 Irish enter the meet as favorites, along with No. 13 Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are hot after defeating No. 12 Penn State in their last meet of the season. And the Irish took note of their conference foes’ recent feat.

“When we saw that Rutgers beat Penn State, we thought they might be trying to send us a message,” Irish junior Julia Quinn said after the Shamrock Invitational Jan. 28. “[Rutgers] will probably be our toughest competition as they have some stars, but they don’t have the depth we [have].”

Notre Dame’s depth is an asset, given the swimmers’ past performances in the conference meet. Six Irish swimmers have collected first place finishes at this tournament before. Katie Carroll leads the way with 10 victories, five individually and five as a member of a relay team. Rebecca Grove and Caroline Johnson each have four, while Jessica Stephens, Ellen Johnson and Katie Guida all have at least one championship.

Although Notre Dame will be competitive in most events, there are a few areas the team is heavily favored to win. Notre Dame’s Jessica Stephens and Julia Quinn hold the top two Big East times this year in the 100-meter breaststroke. Stephens’ mark of 1:03.57 is fast enough for an NCAA ‘B’ cut time, and Quinn is close behind with a time of 1:03.88.

The 400 individual medley (IM) is another strong event for the team as Carroll holds a time of 4:15.34 – the best time in the Big East and the fourth-fastest clip in the country.

The Irish also feel confident about the 400-meter medley relay. Notre Dame has won this race seven times at the Big East Championships, and three of the four swimmers from last season’s first-place team – Caroline Johnson, Stephens and Carroll – are back to defend their title.

With two and a half weeks between their last meet and the Big East Championships, the Irish put the time to good use as Coach Carrie Nixon allowed her swimmers to taper, or rest, for the first time all season.

That extra rest will be needed as this week’s meet will last four days, the squad’s longest meet of the season.