The Irish finished off the semester’s competitions with a fourth-place finish at this weekend’s Ohio State Invitational. Notre Dame coach Tim Welsh said he hoped the result would help the team figure out its strengths and weaknesses as the team takes a break before 2010.
“I think that the experience of this weekend helped us take a major step towards being ready for what we have next season,” Welsh said. “We put a lot of focus on preparing for this meet, and this is kind of like the final exam for the fall semester.”
Of the 12 teams that competed in Columbus, the Irish earned their fourth-place spot thanks to six first-place finishes. Three ninth place finishes helped the Irish against the Big Ten foes, which annually boasts some of the best programs in collegiate swimming.
“The Big Ten always provides really great competition,” Welsh said. “It was clearly the fastest competition we’ve seen all season.”
Senior MacKenzie LeBlanc placed ninth in the 200-meter butterfly event in 1:48.03, which qualifies the swim to the NCAA B-cut standard. Ninth-place finishes also went to two other Irish swimmers during the weekend-long competition. Senior John Lytle (45.27) received a ninth-place finish in the 100-meter freestyle sprinting event, as well as sophomore Petar Petrovic (1:49.65) in the 200-meter backstroke competition.
Notre Dame totaled 442 points on the weekend, with help from the 400-meter freestyle relay team consisting of seniors Lytle and Andrew Hoffman, as well as two freshmen John McGinley and Kevin Overholt who came in sixth place against the field in 3:02.67.
“We had to earn those places in the finals,” Welsh said. “We were faster in our events tonight then we were when we left on Thursday.”
Ohio State won in their home pool, which the Irish hope to return to later this season, as the Buckeyes will host the NCAA regional meet. Minnesota and Big East competitor West Virginia also placed above the Irish.
“West Virginia was in their championship mode,” Welsh said. “We definitely know to race fast against West Virginia when we see them again in January.
Though they are done competing for the rest of the semester, the Irish will travel to San Juan, Puerto Rico for a winter training trip that will prepare them for the rest of the 2009-10 season’s upcoming events.
“We’ll go back into a very hard training phase, trying to strengthen our basic conditioning, working on the fundamentals and working on the things we need to improve,” Welsh said.
“We’ll start focusing on specifics and on the meet conditions ahead when we return.”
The team’s next competition will be a dual meet against the Northwestern Wildcats on Jan. 9 at the Rolfs Aquatic Center.