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MEN’S SWIMMING: Kegelman becomes first ND swimmer to make NCAA’s

Rama Gottumukkala | Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The rise of a program to elite company occurs in small steps. It has been a continual effort for the Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving team, but after years of hard work the program can add one more important milestone to this season’s accomplishments.

Sophomore Tim Kegel-man earned an invitation to the NCAA Championships last Friday afternoon. This marks the first time Notre Dame will send a swimmer to the pinnacle of collegiate swimming in its 47-year history.

“As far as the program goes, it means that now all doors are open,” Irish coach Tim Welsh said. “The path to the very top of collegiate swimming is open, and Tim is going to be the first person to walk through the door. That’s huge and we wanted that to happen for a long time.”

Kegelman garnered the invite due to his season-best time in the 100-yard butterfly (47.66 seconds), which came in the preliminaries of the Notre Dame Invitational in December. That performance broke the meet, pool and University records in the 100-yard butterfly. His time was .03 seconds faster than Pat Cary of UC Santa Barbara (47.69), the final qualifier in the 28-man field competing in the 100-yard butterfly.

“The best thing is that not only does it mean the doors are open, it happened for the program in the best of all possible ways – Tim has made his last step of improvement while he was at Notre Dame,” Welsh said. “While being a part of this program, he’s improved to the point where he can qualify for the NCAA Championships.”

Kegelman will swim the 100-yard butterfly event on March 25 in Minneapolis, Minn., the site of the NCAA Championships. Having also registered NCAA B cuts in the 200-yard individual medley and 200-yard butterfly this season, Kegelman qualified to swim those events as well. He will swim those events on March 24 and March 26, respectively.

Kegelman headlined a strong performance by the Irish swimming corps in the Big East Championships. Seven other Irish swimmers also qualified NCAA B cuts for consideration to take part in the NCAA Championships.

While Kegelman is the sole Irish representative for the season’s final collegiate meet, Welsh sees the team’s performance as a sign of things to come.

“I’m not disappointed at all,” Welsh said. “The reason I say that is because all of those B cuts are lifetime-best achievements. In our sport, anytime you’re talking about a lifetime-best performance, that’s good news. What we have seen is step-by-step, stroke-by-stroke, second-by-second. We’re getting closer. There will be a point at which we have a gang going.”

This season has seen the Irish crack the national ranking polls, beat a nationally-ranked opponent and also win the Big East Championships – all firsts in program history. As the season draws to a close, the Irish are looking for a little more from one of their leaders.

“We’re going to focus on the simplest and the hardest of all things – getting faster,” Welsh said. “The qualifying time is the fastest time ever in the 100-yard butterfly. So even at 28 guys deep, this is the fastest field ever assembled in the 100-yard butterfly for the men’s NCAA Championships. His next step is to say, ‘Can you go to the biggest meet in college and go faster at that point?’ That’s what we’re focusing on.”