Irish to celebrate diverse group of seniors
Mary Green | Wednesday, January 29, 2014
When Notre Dame celebrates its four seniors at the finals of the Shamrock Invitational on Saturday it will honor a group from all over the map that found its home in the pool at Rolfs Aquatic Center.
“When you look at the geographic spread for these guys, you put a star in New York [for freestyler Frank Dyer], a star in Louisiana [for breaststroker Colin Babcock], for [breaststroker] Josh Choi, you put a star in California and for [backstroker] Bertie Nel, you put a star in South Africa,” Irish coach Tim Welsh said. “It kind of exemplifies the international reach of Notre Dame.”
The seniors represent the smallest class on this season’s squad, but Welsh said their impact has been great nonetheless.
“Each guy brings something different to the class, but they’ve been very, very helpful to the program overall,” he said. “They’ve established a level of this program that lets us compete at a very high level.”
Three of them — Dyer, Babcock and Nel — have competed in their respective countries’ Olympic trials, and Dyer was the program’s first All-American and second NCAA qualifier.
Welsh said, however, that swimming does not encapsulate all of Dyer’s life.
“The thing about Frank is, he’s more than his time on the scoreboard, and he’s more than his place at our dual meets and at the national meet,” he said. “He has an outgoing personality. He’s very creative, and he sang for a while in the Halftime [a cappella] group. … He’s just been a very good representative of the University and our program.”
As a pre-professional science major, Joshua Choi also boasts achievements outside of the pool.
“Josh Choi continues our excellence in pre-med,” Welsh said. “We’ve had a pre-med character to our team for years and years, and it’s represented in this year’s class by Josh Choi. He’s a very serious student, not that the other three aren’t, but he continues to connect us to our pre-med history.”
Babcock is a two-time winner of the team’s Charles Blanchard Award for his performance, leadership and inspiration.
“Colin Babcock has brought constant energy and enthusiasm, and he is a team player,” Welsh said. “He has been recognized as the guy who is most willing to help the team, so that combination of high-level achievement and team orientation has been really, really important.”
The fourth senior, Nel, brings a positive presence to the pool deck, his coach said.
“Bertie has been constant,” Welsh said. “He shows up every day; he works hard every day; he’s cheerful every day; he’s an outgoing, friendly guy every day. He’s simply a regular, friendly guy.”
Though this group will be distinguishable from the rest of the team Saturday at Senior Night, Welsh said his team does not make much of a distinction between the classes in its day-to-day activities.
“We’re not usually class-oriented,” he said. “We look at the senior class this time of the year, but we’re just one team. These guys represent their class very well, and they represent the team very well, but we’re all one team.”
While Welsh said he follows the “one-team” philosophy when creating his meet lineup, he said a seniors-only relay could post a competitive time.
“If you look at them, Bertie’s specialty is backstroke, Josh’s specialty is breaststroke, Frank just set a university record in the 100[-yard] butterfly and Colin is emerging as a sprint freestyler. So, if we were to put a 400[-yard] medley relay together, this senior class would have a very good relay.”
While that relay might not compete at the Shamrock Invitational, its theoretical members will be celebrated for their four years of work at the meet’s finals Saturday at 5 p.m. at Rolfs Aquatic Center.