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Men’s Swimming: Irish to begin season at home

By Megan Finneran | Thursday, October 11, 2012

For the Irish, Friday evening marks more than the end of midterms – it marks the beginning of the team’s 2012-2013 campaign. Notre Dame will host the Dennis Stark Relays, welcoming Oakland, Cleveland State and IUPUI.

This series of relays, originally known as the Notre Dame Relays, marks the home opener and honors former Irish coach Dennis Stark. Stark graduated from the university in 1947, then returned to coach the men’s squad from 1958-85 and served as the coach for the women’s squad from 1981-85. He coached Notre Dame’s first-ever NCAA qualifiers while his teams produced six All-Americans, forming a strong base for the program.

This year’s team will look to begin the season with a strong start at home.

“Our first meet goal is to see how everyone races,” senior Chris Johnson said. “We want to see how fast we cam go after some hard training.”

The Irish graduated seven seniors last year but added nine freshmen since the end of last season, when they took 28th place at the NCAA Championships. This finish marked the highest finish in school history and the first championships in which two swimmers competed individually. Junior Frank Dyer finished fourth in the 200-yard freestyle and 39th in the 100-yard freestyle, while senior Bill Bass took 38th in the 100-yard butterfly and 30th in the 200-yard butterfly. On top of that, Notre Dame won its fifth Big East Conference title and went 6-4 in dual meets.

After posting strong results last season, the Irish will try to get back to that same form while welcoming in the freshman faces, Johnson said.

“The freshmen are doing well, but this weekend will let us see how fast they can go when it is for real,” he said. “We’re ready to get back to racing.”

This weekend will bring a range of tough opponents, including Oakland, a squad with a long history under its current coach Pete Hovland. Before moving into Division I, Oakland was a five-time Division II champion and finished in the top three at the NCAAs in 15 of 16 years. The upcoming meet will give the Irish a glimpse of the Golden Grizzlies before facing them again in a dual meet Oct. 26.

More importantly, the event will provide Notre Dame with a chance to display the benefits gained from hard work in the offseason.

“It’s always exciting to see how the training we have been doing is paying off,” Johnson said.

The relays will begin at 5 p.m. Friday evening at the Rolfs Aquatic Center.

Contact Megan Finneran at mfinnera@nd.edu