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Men’s Swimming: Irish win first Big East meet

Molly Sammon | Monday, November 16, 2009

The city of Pittsburgh was not without the echoes of one Irish victory this weekend. Notre Dame defeated the Panthers 179-121 on Friday and won their season’s first Big East event.

“In past years, we have started off slow against Pittsburgh and have had to win the last couple events to win the meet,” senior MacKenzie LeBlanc said. “Our goal was to start off strong and take control of the meet early which was accomplished by everyone on the team.”

The 200-yard medley relay win from sophomore Petar Petrovic, senior John Lytle, LeBlanc and freshman Chris Johnson in 1:32.24 was the first of 13 total swimming events the Irish won against Pittsburgh and provided the team with momentum that stuck with them for the duration of the meet.

Lytle and LeBlanc both received two other first places in individual races later in the meet. Lytle was the first to finish in the 50-yard freestyle (20.70) and 100 freestyle (45.12) events. LeBlanc’s gold finishes were for the 100-yard butterfly (51.20) and 200-yard butterfly (1:50.31) events.

Sophomore Ryan Belecanech won the 1,000-yard freestyle distance event for the Irish. Other first places from juniors Michael Sullivan, Christopher Wills and Joseph Raycroft in their respective events helped the Irish win.

On the diving side of the competition, Caleb Dunnichay took a first place in the one-meter diving event and received 331.65 points for the Irish. Though a Pittsburgh diver took the first place prize in the three-meter diving competition, Irish divers Nathan Geary and Wes Villaflor came in second and third and gained a few more points for the Irish.

“Diving is always an area we can gain points, but it helped take some pressure off during the second half of the meet,” Johnson said.

For its sixth season in a row, Notre Dame has been able to beat the Panthers, who boast a respectable and competitive swimming program and have given tough competition within the conference for the Irish for many years.

“The win against Pittsburgh was by far our best meet of the season as a team and gives us confidence heading into the Ohio State Invitational which is our biggest meet of the semester,” LeBlanc said.

The Irish will see Pittsburgh again at their next meet, the Ohio State Invitational on Dec. 4, and they will be back at Pittsburgh again for the Big East meet near the end of the 2009-10 season.