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ND Swimming: Irish start season with Relays

Chris Doyen | Friday, October 5, 2007

Notre Dame gets its season started today at 5 p.m. with the 43rd annual Dennis Stark relays at the Rolfs Aquatic Center.

At last season’s edition of the event, both the men and the women claimed victory over second-place Ball State. The men won the title for the 10th time in 11 years, and the women swept all 11 swimming events while claiming one of the two diving events.

Both the men and women have the personnel to defend their titles.

All-Big East swimmer Katie Carroll has graduated, but the Irish women return four swimmers who competed in the NCAA Championships last season – junior Christa Riggins, sophomore Megan Farrell, junior Claire Hutchinson and senior Caroline Johnson. The sophomore diving duo of Tiffany Robak and Natalie Stitt, who won the diving relay and placed second in the synchronized diving competition in last year’s Relays, will also compete this weekend.

The 2006-07 women’s team won its record-setting 11th Big East title – by 228 points, over nearest competitor Rutgers.

The men, who set five Stark Relay records while winning 11 of the 13 events last year, have plenty of talent returning from a 2006-07 squad that fell only 4 1/2 points shy of a third straight Big East championship.

At the 2007 conference championships, sophomore John Lytle set school records in the 800-yard freestyle relay, 200 freestyle, 100 freestyle and 400 freestyle relay. Junior Daniel Rave set a school record in the 200 breaststroke. Other returning all-conference swimmers are junior Jeff Wood, sophomore Andrew Hoffman, junior Sam Pendergast, senior Jay Vanden Berg and senior Rob Seery.

The Irish men’s diving team also returns all-conference performers – junior Michael Bulfin and senior Sam Stoner, who swept the diving events at the Relays last year.

In addition to the returning talent, the men’s team has a large freshman class.

“We’re looking for all of them to contribute,” Irish coach Tim Welsh said. “This is an outstanding freshman class.”

Welsh said the Relays will provide a good barometer for measuring where the Irish men currently stand.

“We have a lot of looking to do,” Welsh said. “After all of the training we’ve done, we want to see where we are. …

“We’re going to focus on going faster and getting each man to improve his lifetime best time. We’re just excited to get the season started.”