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ND Swimming: Seniors leave Rolfs on high note

Greg Arbogast | Monday, January 29, 2007

The Notre Dame men and women walked out of Rolfs Aquatic Center for the final time this season with a combined record of 5-3 in this past weekend’s Shamrock Invitational.

Both teams hosted Big East rivals West Virginia and Connecticut in addition to out-of-conference squads Penn State and Oakland. The meet was scored as a quadruple dual meet between each of the five teams.

The No. 19 women handily dispatched of Oakland (310-54), Connecticut (293-76) and West Virginia (222.50-147.50), but suffered their first dual meet loss of the season at the hands of No. 15 Penn State, 213.50 to 156.50.

Of the four results, the Irish placed the most emphasis on their convincing win over the Mountaineers who will likely be one of Notre Dame’s toughest competitors at the Big East Championships.

“We knew they were out to get us right now because this would be a good indication of where we stand going into the Big East [championships],” senior Katie Carroll said. “We feel more secure heading into the Big East knowing we have the ability to beat them.”

Carroll, one of many Irish seniors swimming in Rolfs for the final time this past weekend, left her mark. Her time of 16:27.48 in the 1,650-yard freestyle bested her own pool record by more than 10 seconds. Fellow senior Julia Quinn also set a new pool record as her time of 2:16.26 in the 200-yard breaststroke left Julia Hardy’s 2005 mark in her wake.

“I wasn’t expecting [to get the result I did],” Carroll said. “It hit a couple of us that this was our last time swimming at this place, so it was nice to go out on a high note.”

Carroll also touched the wall first in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:02.40. Over the course of the two days, Notre Dame amassed nine second place finishes, two of which came from sophomore Christa Riggins, who placed second in both the 100 and 200-freestyle. Riggins also teamed up with Carroll, Caroline Johnson, and Rebecca Grove to take second in the 200-yard freestyle relay.

On the men’s side, No. 17 Notre Dame defeated Oakland (230-139) and Connecticut (284-86), but fell short against Penn State (221.5-147.5) and No. 19 West Virginia (228-142).

Notre Dame was the latest to be overwhelmed by the Mountaineer tidal wave, which has destroyed 13 consecutive opponents in addition to a first place finish at the Maryland Invitational. West Virginia won 12 of the 20 events on the weekend, and the Mountaineers won 6 consecutive races on Saturday morning.

“This weekend helped us realize that we have a major challenge [in West Virginia] ahead of us for the Big East championships,” Irish coach Tim Welsh said. “We’ve been in this position before, and we know what to do in it. Game on.”

A bright spot for the Irish was sophomore diver Michael Bulfin who picked up two of the three Notre Dame victories on the weekend. On Friday evening, Bulfin set a pool record in the one-meter diving with a total of 339.40 points, and he nearly duplicated his efforts on Saturday missing the pool record in the three-meter diving by 5.5 points.

“He’s an outstanding diver,” Welsh said. “He’s been doing very well all year, and everything is really coming together for him at the right time.”

Other highlights on the weekend for the Irish included sweeping the top 4 spots in the 500-yard freestyle led by senior Ted Brown’s time of 4:31.55. Notre Dame also took three of the top five spots in the 200-yard freestyle.

Both the men and women will travel to Louisville next weekend for their final meet before the Big East championships Feb. 14.