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ND MEN’S SWIMMING: Wildcats’ speed tops Irish depth as ND loses second meet

Rama Gottumukkala RAMA GOTTUMUKKALA RAMA GOTTUMUKKALA Rama Gottumukkala | Monday, January 24, 2005

It was a duel between team depth and individual speed on Saturday. This time, speed took the upper hand.Depth has been the trademark of the men’s swim team throughout this season. But despite a solid all-around effort against No. 14 Northwestern, the team came up a few lengths shallow in its bid for an upset in a 163.5-134.5 decision. No. 21 Notre Dame (6-2) kept pace with Northwestern (4-4) through the meet, but could not overcome the powerful swimming of Northwestern’s sophomore Matt Grevers, a two-time All-American last year. Grevers took command of the meet as each of his four swims resulted in Rolfs Aquatic Center records.But the Irish were far from being out of the meet. Notre Dame clinched at least two of the top three places in 10 of the 14 individual events, showcasing the team’s depth. In the 100-yard breaststroke, for example, Northwestern’s Louis Torres took first-place, but the next four finishes were posted by Irish swimmers.”Depth has been our strength all year long,” head coach Tim Welsh said. “When we match up with Northwestern, we are opposite teams. They have a few guys who are extremely fast and are not built on depth. We have a lot of depth and we don’t have a lot to match their speed.”The Irish were led by strong individual performances by sophomore Tim Kegelman. Kegelman posted the two lone first-place victories for the team in the 100-yard butterfly (1 minute, 52.28 seconds) and 200-yard butterfly (49.28) races. He led an Irish attack that took all four of the top spots in the 200-yard event. On the season, Kegelman has 11 first-place finishes.”Tim was our MVP as a freshman last year,” Welsh said. “He’s been our leader in the butterfly events since he’s been here. In the Notre Dame invitational, his time in the 100 butterfly still has him ranked fifth in the country. He is legitimately a big time swimmer and [on Saturday] he did a great job.”Notre Dame also controlled the diving boards, outscoring Northwestern 28-8 in the two diving events. The Irish diving attack was spearheaded by the performance of sophomore Scott Coyle. Coyle swept the springboard competitions with first-place scores of 293.77 and 292.35 in the one-meter and three-meter competitions, respectively.”That was really important for us to win the diving events,” Welsh said. “Scott did a great job. Last year they split the two boards, this year Scott won both of them. It was a great effort from him and also demonstrates some real improvement from last year as well.”The weekend’s meet took place 49 days since Notre Dame’s last competition, a convincing first-place finish at the Notre Dame Invitational, held Dec. 2-4. Unable to compete against the Irish National Team during winter break, the Irish had to also contend with being rusty following the long layover.”We would say that rust was a factor,” Welsh said. “Racing is a skill that gets better as you practice it and we have not been able to race much lately. We thought we did not race as well as we might have. To Northwestern’s credit, they raced extremely well.”Saturday’s competition was the final home meet of the season for the Irish, who now face a challenging upcoming weekend. The team will swim at Cleveland State and against Canisius next Friday before traveling to St. Bonaventure next Saturday.But the Irish hope to learn a lot from this weekend’s lessons and take the next step forward as the Big East Championships loom ever closer.”What we saw in Northwestern is that there is a big difference between being ranked No. 14 and being ranked No. 21. We want to be where the No. 14 is and it’s not easy to do. One of the things we learned is that the steps forward from here are going to be hard steps. It’s a hard step once you get to this point on the ladder [but] we want to take them and we’re learning how to take them.”