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Men’s Swimming: Freshman competes at NCAA Championships

Joe Meixell | Thursday, March 23, 2006

Freshman diver Michael Bulfin will take part in the Swimming and Diving NCAA Championships today and tomorrow at Georgia Tech University.

Bulfin, who is just the third Notre Dame athlete all-time to earn a spot at the NCAAs, will compete in the one-meter dive today and the three-meter dive tomorrow. The other two Irish athletes to make nationals were swimmer Tim Kegelman in 2005, and diver Bob Ebel in 1975.

While Bulfin was named All-Big East in the one-meter dive, based on his third place conference finish, it was his performance in the three-meter dive that got him a trip to Atlanta.

Bulfin finished an unexpected fourth at the Zone C NCAA Regional meets March 10 with 634.40 points to qualify for the NCAA National Championships.

“We were surprised and delighted. He was outstanding,”head swimming coach Tim Welsh said. We were really happy; it was a complete surprise. We expected him do to well, but we didn’t expect to qualify.”

Welsh said that Bulfin’s performance this year has been impressive, but what makes it all the more outstanding is that it is his first year on the team.

“His improvement [this year] was very dramatic,” said Welsh. “He’s doing the same dives [from the beginning of the year] better. He’s added new dives to list, very difficult ones, and he’s been performing them at a championship level.”

Welsh went as far as to call Bulfin’s diving at the Zone C meet “the highest level of performance” he’s ever seen from a Notre Dame diver. Bulfin has cemented himself securely in the history of the Notre Dame swimming and diving program despite being a freshman.

“It’s a giant step for the program,” Welsh said of Bulfin’s participation in the NCAA Championship meet. “It opens the door for divers to go to the NCAAs at Notre Dame.

Welsh noted also that the selection process is dramatically different since Ebel competed in 1975. The NCAA has implemented a zone system that splits the country into distinct areas, each of which has its own regional preliminary and capped the number of divers that make it to the national championships. Previously, all divers who met a predetermined score gained entrance to the championships, but now the amount of divers has been capped at 35, making Bulfin’s achievement even more impressive.

It’s a giant step for him personally, and for our team we have been improving. work in progress, level we want, want to be fixture, player, big steps and small steps, the door is open, we know, now we just have to work hard enough to get more though

Though the championships will have 35 divers, just five are from Zone C, the Midwest region. Purdue, Ohio State and Indiana also have divers competing in Atlanta. The competition of the national championships will intense, and Welsh said it remains to be seen how Bulfin will handle the pressure.

“I don’t know how he’ll fare, sometimes the ‘wow’ factor is intimidating, and sometimes not,” Welsh said. “That ‘wow’ factor is high. It’s going to be exciting, and that’s going to last regardless, of how he performs. It’s a great experience and it will make him better.”

Bulfin will be competing in a huge Georiga Tech facility originally built for the 1996 Summer Olympic games. Bulfin, who coaches describe as “smart, quiet, dedicated, very conscientious, and a big supporter of the team”, is looking to do well on the huge stage.

If not, as Welsh said, there’s always next year.

“Remember, he’s only a freshman,” the coach said.