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Women’s Swimming: Final lap begins Thursday

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, March 14, 2006

After focusing all year on qualifying and succeeding in the NCAA tournament, Notre Dame head coach Carrie Nixon said her team has only achieved the first part of its season goal and will look to achieve the second part starting Thursday at the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga.

Three Irish swimmers – juniors Katie Carroll and Julia Quinn and freshman Claire Hutchinson – and one diver – sophomore Tara Hyer – qualified for the event. While Nixon was slightly disappointed that several other Irish swimmers failed to qualify for the meet, she said she was happy to send four team members to Athens.

“We qualified more girls than we did last year, and that shows we’re headed in the right direction,” Nixon said. “At the end of every season, though, you’re always humbled by how difficult it is to qualify for the NCAA meet and how special it is for the kids who do qualify.”

The team has had nearly a month off since it won the Big East Championship, which concluded Feb. 18. Since then, Nixon has put the athletes who qualified for the NCAAs on a “double-taper” training schedule. For the first two weeks after the conference championship meet, Nixon put the girls through rigorous training equivalent to mid-season workouts. After that point, she eased up to let the swimmers rest before the NCAAs.

“The first two weeks are a bit of a system shock because you’re all rested at that point,” Nixon said. “But after the first two weeks, the girls get to rest up and get ready for the meet.”

Leading the way for the Irish is Carroll, who will be swimming in the 200 IM, 400 IM, and 200 butterfly events. Carroll is making her third consecutive appearance at the NCAA championships and hopes to draw from her experiences the past couple of years.

“The last two years helped me learn about the competition,” she said. “I’ve researched my opponents this time. I don’t just go in and swim.”

Carroll’s best event is clearly the 400 IM, as she finished in sixth place, earning her All-America honors at last year’s NCAA meet. This year, she is currently No. 7 nationally in the event with a time of 4:14.37.

Carroll is not the only Irish swimmer with NCAA experience. Quinn is making her second consecutive appearance. Quinn qualified for the 100-meter breaststroke last season with the University of Minnesota. This year, along with a 100-meter championship appearance for the Irish, she also qualified in the 200 – in which she currently ranks No. 17 nationally with a time of 2:14.27.

Although this is Hutchinson’s first NCAA meet, she joins elite company by becoming only the fifth freshman in Notre Dame women’s swimming history to qualify for three NCAA events.

One of the other four swimmers in the select group is Carroll, who accomplished the feat in 2004. Nixon also did so as an Irish swimmer in 1998.

“It’s quite an honor for her,” Nixon said. “What’s so exciting about her is that she had some good swims at the Big East, but she’s definitely capable of more.”

The final member of the team to qualify for the NCAAs was Hyer. This is Hyer’s first NCAA championship, and she qualified by earning All-Big East honors in last month’s meet.

Hyer will compete in this Friday’s NCAA Zone C Diving Meet in Columbus, Ohio, and she will need to finish in the top four in order to qualify for a trip to Athens later in the week.