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Men’s Swimming & Diving: Despite loss, Sullivan sees progress in meet against Purdue

Maija Gustin and Joseph Wirth | Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Irish fell to in-state rival Purdue Saturday, 173-127, for their second loss against a team from the highly competitive Big Ten Conference this season. Despite the loss, senior captain Mike Sullivan saw positives from his performance and the team’s performance to carry through the rest of the season.

Junior Boilermaker and U.S. Olympian diver David Boudia eet his own Rolfs Aquatic Center record in both the 1- and 3-meter diving events while leading Purdue to victory. He had previously set the records in the

Boilermakers’ meet against the Irish in 2008. On Saturday, Boudia tallied a 473.47 total off the 3-meter board and posted 394.5 points from the 1-meter board.

Although the Irish did not come out on the winning end, Sullivan said he saw plenty of good things that the team can build upon for future meets.

Sullivan picked up a win in the 400-yard individual medley and second place in the 200 backstroke against Purdue. Though the Irish (2-2) fell to the Boilermakers, Sullivan earned big points towards the Irish’s 127 total points.

“I started the day off a bit slower than I would have liked with the 200 free, but felt better as the meet went on,” Sullivan said. “I was extremely happy with my 400 IM race, because it was the fastest I’ve ever been in a dual meet for that event.”

Sullivan maintained a lead throughout the entire 400-yard race and was a full two body lengths ahead of the competition going into the breaststroke leg of the race. He clocked in at 3:59.78.

“I wanted to get under that four-minute mark, and was able to do that so that was exciting for me,” Sullivan said. “I would say it was probably my best [race of the year]. The fact that I have been improving with each meet is great to see, and always makes swimming more fun.”

Sullivan credits the rigorous Irish training schedule under head coach Tim Welsh as the biggest key to his success.

“I think my training base has helped me to become a pretty good 400 IM swimmer,” Sullivan said. “It’s a really tough event, but all of the distance work we do in practice helps to prepare you for it. I also consider myself to be a competitive person, so getting the opportunity to swim in one of my best events against other competitive guys always gets me pretty pumped up.”

Sullivan’s hard work has been paying off this season for the Irish. Amongst many great performances, Sullivan earned second in the 200 freestyle, first in the 500 freestyle and first in the 200 individual medley against Pittsburgh. He also pushed the Irish to a win at the annual Dennis Stark relays by contributing to a second-place finish in the 800 freestyle relay and a win in the 400 backstroke relay.

As a Notre Dame captain, Sullivan has led by example in and out of the pool.

“Being a captain for this team is one of the biggest honors I’ve ever had in my life. I’m surrounded by an awesome group of guys, and it means a lot to know that they respect and look up to me in that sort of way,” Sullivan said. “I always try to set a good example and lead the way for the rest of the guys, and they all do an awesome job of pushing me in the pool and holding me accountable.

“This year, I’ve been making an attempt to be a more vocal and encouraging leader. But all in all, it’s a lot of fun, and the other seniors do a great job of helping me out and setting good examples, as well.”

With his senior year, and probably his last as a swimmer, quickly ticking away, Sullivan is trying to make the most of every second of practice and competition he can get.

“I really think it all boils down to training,” Sullivan said. “I really have to make the most of every practice and weights session if I want to achieve my goals. I have to trust in myself and know that if I keep training, progress will be made.”

Sullivan cites his brother as his biggest inspiration and his greatest motivator as a swimmer.

“I would say my older brother, PJ, has been the most inspiring person for me in my swimming career,” Sullivan said. “He was extremely talented, so it was easy to look up at him with respect and a bit of awe at the things he was able to accomplish. The motivation to be as good of a swimmer as he was is definitely something that fuels me. I consider him one of my best friends, and I think swimming has been a big part of that.”

The Irish next face Utah in a home meet, and while Sullivan is preparing, he has his eyes set on the Big East and NCAA championships.

“For the rest of the season, I just want to keep getting faster each meet,” Sullivan said. “If that works out, then by the time the Big East meet rolls around in February, I will be able to focus on my main goal, which is to make the NCAA championship meet.”

Sullivan is confident that he will be one of many Notre Dame swimmers at the NCAA meet this year.

“Also, the team goal is to win that Big East, as well as send guys to NCAAs,” Sullivan said. “Our team has been training very hard and holding each other accountable so that we keep those goals in mind. And I think if we keep up the good work and continue making progress, then those goals are very realistic.”

Sullivan is ready to help Notre Dame win another Big East Championship, which he credits as the site of his best meet ever.

“My best meet as a swimmer for Notre Dame would probably be my sophomore year at the Big East meet,” Sullivan said. “Everything really came together that weekend, and I had some awesome races. And to be able to look back on that meet and remember how the team won on the final relay really makes it that much better of a memory. Knowing I was able to contribute to a Big East Championship for my school is an honor and something that I hope to be able to enjoy again this year.”