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ND Women’s Swimming: Team prepares for Dennis Starks Relays

Chris Khorey | Friday, October 7, 2005

Four years ago, Carrie Nixon was preparing for her final Dennis Stark Relays as a member of the Notre Dame swim team.

Friday, she will experience her first Stark Relays as head coach of the Fighting Irish.

The Relays, which traditionally begin the season for the Irish, have been held every year since 1964. This year, Notre Dame will host Illinois State, Ball State, Oakland, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Valparaiso, Cleveland State and Marquette.

Nixon said the meet will offer the team an opportunity to gain confidence before the dual meet season, which begins Oct. 28 against California.

“We have to learn how to race and how to swim our own events so we can go into the dual meets with confidence,” Nixon said.

Nixon, who was promoted to replace former head coach Bailey Weathers after he resigned in March, is attempting to bring a new spirit of teamwork and unity to the Irish.

“The biggest thing that we’ve changed is the attitude and how we approach the sport of swimming,” Nixon said. “We try to inspire the girls, make them better leaders, better athletes, better people and better students.

“Our biggest emphasis for the year having a great team, being supportive of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and really embracing everything we do as a team together.”

As a Notre Dame graduate, Nixon feels she has a unique bond with her athletes and that she can understand their day-to-day life.

“I’m comfortable here, and the girls take a lot of stock in knowing that I’ve been here and I’ve been through what they’re going through,” Nixon said. “I know with midterms coming up this week how tired you get, and I know how hard it is to push through it, but I know you have to keep pushing.

“I love Notre Dame, and I hope that bleeds into the girls.”

Key for the upcoming season will be the return of team MVP Katie Carroll.

“I’m so pumped up for Katie – she’s a great leader,” Nixon said. “She understands the meaning of hard work and really embraces that. She’s really great, and she’s a joy to have around. In order to be a top-10 program, we have to have athletes that are in the top 10 in their respective events. One of those is Katie Carroll.”

Nixon said that Carroll, who earned All-America honors last year, played an important role in making sure the coaching change went smoothly.

“She’s been a big part of [the transition] as far as helping me realize what we were missing last year, what things we can do better,” Nixon said. “She and I have a great relationship, so it’s easy for us to talk about those things.”

The format for the Stark relays will be different from other meets. There will be only one individual contest, one-meter diving. Most of each team’s score will come from a series of relays.

Nixon said the format will be a big help to freshmen Claire Hutchinson, Christa Riggins and Casey Wagner, who will all be competing in their first collegiate meet.

“It’s kind of an icebreaker for the freshmen,” Nixon said. “It gives them a chance to be in the team atmosphere without the individual pressure of performing or trying to prove themselves in the first meet. A lot of freshmen feel like the have to do their lifetime best in the first meet, and this relay format just takes a lot of pressure off them.”

The meet begins at 6:30 p.m. today at the Rolfs Aquatic Center.