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Men’s Swimming: Irish take Big East crown

Mary Green | Monday, March 4, 2013

Notre Dame capped off the fourth day of the 2013 Big East Championships with a conference championship win and with a meet-record 991 points at the IUPUI Natatorium in Indianapolis.

The victory marks the second year in a row and the sixth time overall that the team has earned the conference title. Second-place Louisville finished with 851.5 points, falling 139.5 behind the Irish.

Irish head coach Tim Welsh said this year’s team has distinguished itself from last year’s championship squad with its speed and extra year of training.

“This is the fastest team we’ve ever had,” he said. “It’s also more experienced … and that made a big difference.”

On Friday, the team placed a competitor in the top three of each of the seven finals events. Sophomore Matthew DeBlasio opened the night with a third-place finish in the 400-yard individual medley in a time of 3:50.95, falling short of a team record by one-hundredth of a second. Senior Bill Bass and sophomore Jonathan Williamson were the next Irish swimmers to take their spots on the podium, as they touched the wall second and third respectively in the 100-yard butterfly.

In the 200-yard freestyle, junior Frank Dyer claimed the silver medal, and freshman Bogac Ayhan netted a third-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke.

The best event for the Irish on the evening came in the 100-yard breaststroke, won by senior Chris Johnson. Not only did Johnson break the school record set by sophomore Zach Stephens earlier in that morning’s prelims, but he also broke the meet record with a time of 52.95. Stephens and fellow sophomore Cameron Miller rounded out the top three to earn valuable points for Notre Dame, and all three swimmers turned in times that broke the previous team records.

Welsh said he believes his squad’s depth in events such as the 100-yard backstroke, and the depth of his team a whole, were the main reasons Notre Dame secured its title in such convincing fashion.

“When you look at the number of events where we had three, four, five guys in the top eight, I think that’s a testament to our team depth,” he said. “We are a team that is very balanced and very deep, and I think that, in this Big East Championship, that was the deciding factor.”

On Friday, sophomore diver Michael Kreft earned 338.20 points in the 3-meter dive, missing first place by one-tenth of a point.

In Friday’s final event, the 400-yard medley relay, the Notre Dame team of Ayhan, Johnson, Bass and Stephens finished second behind Louisville’s squad but captured enough points for the Irish to close the night with a 181-point advantage over the Cardinals.

On the meet’s last day, Stephens claimed gold in the 200-yard breaststroke in a time of 1:55.21, beating the old meet-record by almost two seconds and bringing the total number of records broken over the four-day span to eight.