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Women’s Swimming

Season Recap: Reaney sets American record, wins title for ND

| Friday, May 16, 2014

A tie for 16th place at the NCAA championships and the program’s first individual national championship highlighted Notre Dame’s inaugural season in the ACC.

Irish freshman Molly Barry swims in the 1650-yard freestyle during Notre Dame's dual meet victory over Valparaiso on Nov. 15.Wei Lin | The Observer

Irish freshman Molly Barry swims in the 1650-yard freestyle during Notre Dame’s dual meet victory over Valparaiso on Nov. 15.

“[The season] went very well,” Irish coach Brian Barnes said. “It was a good year, and I had a lot of fun coaching these girls. We had an incredibly successful year, and it was fun to coach. I definitely grew as a coach, and my swimmers grew as well. I learned a lot about them, and they certainly learned a lot about me.

“You can look up the stats and the records, but out of the pool, it was great to watch the team come together. We finished this year with the same result as last year, but the team dynamic was very different.”

The biggest storyline concluded on the final day of the season, when junior Emma Reaney won Notre Dame’s first-ever individual national championship, setting an American record in the process of securing the 200-yard breaststroke title. In winning the national championship, Reaney broke her own record, set just a few weeks earlier at the ACC championships.

“No one’s ever done that at Notre Dame, so it’s very special,” Barnes said. “Men or women, we’ve never had an individual national champion. It’s great for the university; it’s great for Emma; it’s great for the whole sport of women’s swimming. Now when Emma steps onto the platform, everyone knows who she is.”

The Lawrenceville, Kan., native was named ACC Swimmer of the Week five times, won three ACC titles on her way to being named ACC Women’s Most Valuable Swimmer, was named ACC Women’s Swimmer of the Year and earned three more All-American honors, bringing her career total to 10.

“It was special to get to coach her all year and watch her dominate every step of the way,” Barnes said. “Obviously, she’s a fantastic swimmer, but I really saw her grow in terms of confidence and attitude. As a coach, I always say consistency is your best friend, and with Emma, I felt like I knew before every race what I was going to get out of her.”

The successful season initially did not appear to be so promising. The Irish struggled out of the gate, dropping their first three dual meets. Despite the poor start, Barnes said he was never worried about the direction of the season.

“A lot of people focus on the record and the win-loss, and that’s fine, but that’s not how I look at it,” Barnes said. “Our focus is not at the beginning of the year; it’s at the end. I love winning dual meets, and I was upset with the way we lost a couple of those races. We could’ve been 2-1. But was I worried? No. In the beginning, we lost to teams we finished ahead of at [the NCAA championships].”

After losing the first three, the Irish went on a five-meet winning streak to close the fall season, capped off by a first-place finish at the Hawkeye Invitational in December.

Notre Dame then used that momentum as a springboard into its first ACC championship, where the Irish finished sixth.

“We finished sixth at the ACC championships, and sixth is nothing to pat yourself on the back for, but I still liked what I saw from the girls,” Barnes said. “The poise they carried themselves with, the confidence they had being the new kids on the block, I was very impressed with that.”

After the conference championships, Notre Dame qualified eight swimmers for the NCAA championships. The team of Reaney, seniors Kelly Ryan and Christen McDonough, juniors Bridget Casey, Courtney Whyte and Suzanne Bessire and freshmen Katie Miller and Catherine Mulquin took 16th place in Minnesota.

Despite tying last year’s team with the program’s highest finish ever at the NCAA championships, Barnes said he believes his team still can do better.

“As a coach, 16th is not something I strive for,” Barnes said. “I’m not going to pat myself on the back for a 16th-place finish. I’d like to see us be a little higher, and I think the potential is there for us to improve.”

Notre Dame will say goodbye to five seniors: Ryan, McDonough, Sarah Dotzel, Mikelle Masciantonio and Lauren Stauder. Barnes praised the group for the leadership and continued improvement the class showed since first stepping on campus in 2010.

“They are a very good class,” Barnes said. “Each year is really defined by the senior class. In terms of leadership, you really go as far as your senior class takes you. Each senior finished their career with their best times, and as a coach, I’m really proud of that. These girls grew so much and went out at the top.”

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