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Men’s Swimming: Stark Relays mark start of season

Joe Meixell | Friday, October 6, 2006

Defending two straight titles is hard. Defending two straight titles after graduating ten seniors from last year’s championship team is even harder.

The Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving teams will start down the road to defending their previous two Big East Titles this weekend at Rolfs Aquatic Center in the Dennis Stark Relays.

The Irish will compete against five other schools in the 13-event meet.

“Our expectations are very simple, but very demanding,” head coach Tim Welsh said. “All we expect is for the team to improve in every event. We’re not worried about the scoreboard. If we improve, the scoreboard will read how we want it to read.”

Associate head coach Matt Tallman was also optimistic about Notre Dame’s chances.

“We really look good. The guys are swimming well. Even the guys who are returning this year have looked better than they normally have,” Tallman said.

The Irish will be led by senior tri-captain and nine-time Big East champion Tim Kegelman, who is the first swimmer in school history to compete in the NCAA national meet. Kegelman holds school records in seven events.

“Our team wants to defend our Big East title, work our way up to top 15 in the Dual Meet polls, qualify a solid group of people, including relays, for the NCAA championships so we can score some significant points once we get there,” Kegelman said. “To accomplish these things, we must consistently turn in fast times in our dual meets when we race during intense, mid-season practices.”

Also returning this year is junior Jay Vanden Berg, a three-time Big East champion and owner of school records in the 1,650-yard freestyle, 500-yard freestyle and 1,000-yard freestyle.

Senior tri-captain Ted Brown, who set the top time in the 200-yard freestyle, will provide some much-needed versatility for the Irish. Brown was a part of the 800-yard freestyle relay team with fellow senior captain Louis Cavadini, senior Brian Freeman and junior Rob Seery. Last season,

Brown competed in the 1,000-yard freestyle, the 200-yard fly and the 400-yard individual medley.

“We have big expectations this year that include not only winning the Big East Championship for the third straight year, but also sending a big group to the NCAA meet,” Brown said. “We’ve set the bar of excellence high because we feel like we’re a special team this year that can do big things in the water.”

Sophomore Michael Bulfin, who qualified for the NCAA nationals, will dive for the Irish, along with junior Sam Stoner.

Stoner and Kegelman said the Irish shouldn’t miss a beat after graduating 10 seniors.

“Our senior class last year was big and quick, but I could say the same thing of our entering freshman class,” Stoner said. “There are a few guys who have cuts for the Olympic trials already, so it will be exciting to see how they do in the meet.”

The team’s upperclassmen have liked what they’ve seen so far from the younger members of the swimming corps.

“Two sophomores will be racing for us for the first time, Sam Pendergast and Jeff Wood, both of whom bring a lot of speed to the team,” Kegelman said. “Having the new guys has increased the level of the practices, which will benefit us all this year.”

The event is named in honor of longtime head coach Dennis Stark, who was the program’s first head coach from 1958 until 1985, the year Welsh took over the program.

“[Stark has] been great,” Welsh said. “This is the 42nd year in a row we’ve begun a season where he’s either coached or been the meet referee. He’ll be the meet referee again this year.”