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Men’s Swimming: Hard work pays off for Irish

Jack Thornton | Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Irish took advantage of the break from classes with a grueling training schedule, which paid off with a road win against Evansville and a fifth-place finish in the 24th annual Dallas Morning News Classic.

Coach Tim Welsh said the training went well for his team.

“The weather was beautiful, and when you’re training outdoors, good weather makes for good training,” Welsh said of his team’s two-week stay in Boca Raton, Fla. “We did a great deal of training, and I think we got a lot accomplished, so from an athletic point of view, it was great.”

Following a 10-day hiatus after finals, the team reconvened on Dec. 27 to train at St. Andrew’s High School for 15 days of brutal work.

“We had a lot of sunscreen on,” said senior Patrick Davis. “A couple of people got burned, but we knew what to expect,”.

Still, the No. 19 Irish weren’t there to relax.

“We were training four hours a day, every day, and we had something like 39 straight practices,” he said. “I don’t remember the exact number, but Sunday was first day off since Christmas.”

The team makes the trip to Florida annually, but this is the first time the Irish have been invited to the prestigious Dallas Morning News Classic. The meet’s format had each school sending eight swimmers and one diver.

In addition to the Irish, this year’s field featured No. 7 Florida, which took first, followed by No. 16 Northwestern, No. 14 Florida State, host Southern Methodist, Notre Dame and Washington.

“The field was extremely tough,” Welsh said. “It was a great field, and with a small format, it was probably the fastest field we’ve raced against.”

Though the Irish finished 120 points behind Florida and more than 100 points behind Northwestern, Welsh expressed no displeasure with his team’s effort.

“I thought our swims were very strong, and especially strong considering where we were in our training phase,” Welsh said. “The guys that swam there trained every day since the 27th … they had a right to be tired. They were tired and they still raced well.”

Among the highlights were freshman diver Michael Bulfin capturing second place in the three-meter diving, while junior Ted Brown took fourth in the 500-yard freestyle and sixth in the 200-yard butterfly with a season best time of 1:51.76.

The team was split, however, as last Friday had the Irish competing in both the Dallas meet and a dual meet in Evansville. Assistant coach Matt Tallman went with nine members of the swim team to Texas, while Welsh coached the remainder of the squad across the state. Despite missing many of the team’s top swimmers, the Irish pounded their in-state foes 163-73 while capturing first in nine of 13 events.

With the win, the Irish improved to 3-1 in dual meets on the road and 5-1 overall. Davis was one of three Irish swimmers to win in two events.

“It was good because you could see people who don’t normally win events step up and score a lot of points,” Davis said. “Also it was good because everyone was tired after training so long in Florida, and yet we still posted good times after that.”

The team has developed since the beginning of the year, as swimmers have matured and grown into their roles.

“The most important part is [having two road meets] gave us a chance to race on the road right after a training period, and it forced new people to step up in unfamiliar roles,” Welsh said. “I think we’ll be better this weekend and next weekend because we raced last weekend.”