The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Dennis Stark Relays this weekend

Matt Lozar | Friday, October 3, 2003

Friday, the Belles get a chance to swim with the best.

The 2003 season gets kicked off at 6:30 p.m. with the Dennis Stark Relays. Besides Saint Mary’s, the Notre Dame men’s and women’s teams will compete in the relays. With the Belles competing at the Division III level and the Irish women winning the past seven Big East Championships, the Belles use this meet to see what it is like to compete at the Division I level.

“It gives us a bench mark; they are the class of the Big East,” Saint Mary’s coach Gregg Petcoff said. “Locally, they are the class probably in Indiana. It’s nice to set up a mark to chase.

“We’d love to say we compete with them, but we chase them.”

While competing with the Notre Dames of the world is a dream for Saint Mary’s, this meet isn’t about the Belles coming in last. Petcoff says his team can stay even with Division I programs like Illinois State and Valparaiso.

In the 2002 Notre Dame Relays, the Belles finished fifth of six teams.

With the calendar saying it’s the beginning of October, the actual competition cycle of swimming is still a few weeks away from getting into full swing. Petcoff wants to use this meet to see how successful the preseason training has been.

“It’s kind of early to compete, but one of the reasons we like it is that it’s only three to four weeks into the season,” Petcoff said. “[Waiting] two months would be a lot of training. It’s nice to have a meet. We want to be aggressive, find areas where we aren’t ready to compete yet. I’d rather have mistakes here than at the [MIAA] championships.”

In 2002, Megan Ramsey won the conference title in the 100-meter butterfly. Ramsey’s time earned her an NCAA provisional spot and allowed the then-junior to compete in the NCAA qualifying meet. Ramsey wasn’t able to qualify for the NCAA Championships, but she is one of the seniors Petcoff is hoping will lead the talented freshman class.

“We have a fairly talented group of freshmen to combine with a group that set team records throughout their careers,” Petcoff said. “I’m looking not only for leadership in the water.

“We have Megan Ramsey who has an NCAA time, two [butterfly] as freshmen trying to chase her down. We have Maureen [Palchak] who is a sprinter record-holder.”

Petcoff and the Belles haven’t been training for too long and aren’t dying to compete in a meet. However, the Belles want to use this meet against tougher competition as a tune-up for their next meet at Carthage College, in which fellow MIAA conference member Hope College will be competing.

“It’s a nice little combination at this meet,” Petcoff said. “We are going to try and go after one or two of these relays, and see how close are we to a very competitive time.”