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Swimmers win on close finish

Mike Tennant | Monday, January 17, 2005

Sixth hundredths of a second may not seem like a lot, but it was huge for the Irish women’s swim team this weekend.Illinois led the No. 21-ranked Irish 175-172 going into the final swim of the meet, the 400-yard freestyle relay. Three and a half minutes later, Notre Dame sophomore Rebecca Grove touched the wall .06 seconds in front of Illinois’ Barbie Viney, giving the Irish a 183-181 victory.”I couldn’t really see anything, so I just looked up at the girls and saw Ellen [Johnson] holding her arms up and jumping up and down, that’s when I knew,” Grove said.The team of sophomores Katie Carroll, Ellen Johnson and Grove and freshman Caroline Johnson posted a time of 3:28.22, the best for this Irish in this event all season. The relay victory brought a fitting close to the final home meet of the season. “We made it more exciting than we intended,” Irish coach Bailey Weathers said. “We’ve had this meet on and off the last few years, and they [Illinois] always make things pretty hard on us.”Six seniors said goodbye to Rolfs Aquatic Center Saturday, but none more triumphantly than diver Meghan Perry-Eaton.The fifth-year senior broke her own pool record for 1-meter diving with a six-dive score of 316.30 on Friday. The next day, she shattered the pool record with a 3-meter diving score of 576.05 points in 11 dives. Her score was more than 25 points better than the previous mark, and had been the only pool record that she did not own.”She’s done a great job for us all year,” Weathers said.The Irish diver is now 8-0 in 2004-05, and the win extended her dual-meet winning streak to 21 in a row, dating back to 2001.The meet featured both Illinois and the No.13-ranked Michigan teams, but the Irish were only scored against the Illini.Friday’s session began with Illinois jumping out to a quick lead, but the Irish swimmers roared right back as the night progressed. The Irish charge was led by Carroll and freshman Kelly Battle, who finished second and third in the 200-yard individual medley. Notre Dame took over the lead on the final event of the day, as the team of Caroline Johnson, Carroll, Jessica Stephens and Ellen Johnson posted a time of 3:51.90 in the 400-yard medley relay. The Saturday morning session was highlighted by a few unlikely marks posted by the Irish. Carroll took second in the 400-yard medley despite it being only the second time she swam the event this year. In the 100-yard butterfly Junior Christel Bouvron finished just .09 seconds behind Illinois’ Christina Brunka, despite battling an illness that caused her to scratch out of all other races.The Irish began the final session strongly, as senior co-captain Kelli Barton and sophomore Abby Strang took third and fourth place respectively in the first event, the 1,650-yard freestyle.Despite a strong showing from senior Kristen Peterson and sophomores Ellen Johnson and Ann Barton in the 200 backstroke, the Irish found themselves down by 14 points with only two events remaining.Excellent times from Carroll and senior Brooke Taylor in the 200-yard butterfly brought the Irish to within three points of the Illini, setting the stage for the final relay.”I was slightly nervous, we were all a little nervous, but we all knew we could win the meet,” Grove said. “We knew how important it was for the seniors.””We haven’t had a meet that came down to the last relay in several years,” Weathers said. “I think it’s a really good experience for us. It’s a confidence builder.”The Notre Dame women swimmers are off until Jan. 28, when they travel to Michigan to take on the No. 13 Wolverines.