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Men’s Swimming: ND’s title defense begins

Mike Gotimer | Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On Wednesday, Notre Dame will try to begin its title defense at the Big East championships at the Indiana University Natatorium on the campus of IUPUI in Indianapolis.

The Irish seek their fourth Big East title overall since joining the conference before the 1995-96 season and fourth in the past five seasons. In addition, Notre Dame has posted 11 consecutive top four finishes at the meet.

The Irish finished the dual meat season with a 7-6 record, but they enter the championships riding a four-meet winning streak. The streak couldn’t come at a better time for Irish, who are red-hot heading into one of their biggest meets of the year.

“This is a championship meet for which we’ve been preparing since August,” Irish coach Tim Welsh said. “This is the show. Everybody is focused on it. We’ve had some very exciting practices heading into the meet, and we’re leaving campus full of excitement for what might happen.”

Although the Irish are hitting their stride as they travel to Indianapolis, they still have quite a bit of work to do to earn another Big East title.

“The field is fast,” coach Welsh said. “We know that there is a lot of work for us, hopefully in the preliminaries and in the finals, but we’re certainly excited about our chances.”

Over the past month, Notre Dame’s divers have made significant contributions for the team, and their performance may be crucial to Notre Dame’s success this weekend. Furthermore, the Irish swimmers must continue to post season-best and personal-best times.

“Diving will be very important to final team standings,” Welsh said. “And I think if you are going to watch us over the weekend, you should take note of two things: Our qualifying positions in the preliminary heats in the morning and then the comparison between the entry time and the actual time. It’s all about going fast for us. We know that if we go fast enough, we’ll be in the right place and the scoreboard will count it right.”

Although the Irish don’t have a top seed in any of the meet’s events, they experience and have many competitors who are capable of challenging for top honors in any given event. Notre Dame returns a number of athletes who have previously won titles at the event, as junior MacKenzie LeBlanc has two Big East titles to his name while junior Andrew Hoffman and sophomore Joshua Nosal each have one on their resumes.

Furthermore, eight members of the current Notre Dame squad have garnered All-Big East honors at the meet during their careers, led by junior John Lytle, who ranks second in Notre Dame history with 11 all-conference honors.

The Big East conference championships begin on Wednesday, and the four-day event will run until the Big East conference champion is crowned on Saturday in Indianapolis.