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Women’s Swimming: Irish squad unlucky in NCAAs

Greg Arbogast | Wednesday, March 22, 2006

There was no extra luck for the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day when they competed in the NCAA championships held in Athens, Ga. from March 16-18.

On the famed Irish holiday, two of the team’s three swimmers who qualified for the championships, junior Katie Carroll and freshman Claire Hutchinson, fell victim to a virus that spread throughout multiple teams at the tournament. It couldn’t have come at a worse time for Notre Dame.

Carroll was forced to swim two of her three events, including her best event – the 400-meter IM – under the influence of the virus. Carroll was a favorite to earn All-America honors in the 400-meter IM and with good reason as she held the fifth seeded time in preliminaries. The effect of the sickness was obvious, however, as Carroll’s final time was over 16 seconds slower than her preliminary time, dropping her all the way to 38th place.

“To train all year for one event and then get so sick the night before was really frustrating,” Carroll said. “It was frustrating knowing that going into the event I wouldn’t be able to perform at my best. It was tough not just for me, but it was tough because I didn’t represent the school as best I could.”

Carroll did not walk away from the event empty handed as she garnered All-America honorable mention honors, her third straight year to earn at least All-America honorable mention. Thursday evening, Carroll finished the 200-meter IM in 13th place with a time of 2:00.48, the fastest time in school history on a yard-measured course. Carroll also earned All-America honors in the 200-meter IM when she finished in 14th place in 2005 and ninth place in 2004.

Hutchinson, competing in her first ever NCAA championships, was also forced to swim two of her three events after she got sick. After finishing 38th in the 500-meter freestyle on Thursday evening with a time of 4:51.91, only .16 seconds behind her season best, Hutchinson competed in both the 400-meter IM and 1,650-meter freestyle while under the weather. Hutchinson, however, did not let the virus stop her from posting the sixth fastest time in school history in the 1,650-meter freestyle as she took 25th place with a time of 16:34.92.

“The virus affected the girls tremendously,” coach Carrie Nixon said. “Katie had a shot to win the whole thing, and for her to come out 13 seconds slower is devastating especially because her focus all year has been on that event. As for Claire, for her to turn around on Saturday [in the 1,650-meter freestyle] and swim so well was amazing.”

Although it was clear that the virus affected Carroll and Hutchinson’s performance, both swimmers showed their desire and toughness just by competing on Friday and Saturday. After spending Friday afternoon in the hospital, the two swimmers returned Friday evening to finish their events. Carroll and Hutchinson were the only swimmers affected by the virus to get in the pool on Friday and Saturday.

“Tough is the perfect word to describe what they did, and it really shows the quality of their character,” Nixon said. “It was a very inspiring thing, and it got a lot of compliments from other coaches and swimmers.”

Julia Quinn, the only Irish swimmer not affected by the virus, turned in an impressive performance as she finished in 20th place in the 200-meter breast stroke with a time of 2:15.24. Her time was the seventh fastest for the event in school history and just off her season best time of 2:14.27. Quinn also finished in 33rd in the 100-meter breast stroke with a time of 1:03.63.

Although Notre Dame was hoping for a better performance at last week’s NCAA championships, they walk away from it knowing they can improve and are motivated to show just that.

“We’re capable of so much more than we showed last weekend,” Carroll said. “I think we’re going to show a lot of people that next year.”