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The Champs are here

Nathaniel Lee | Monday, February 23, 2009

There was no stopping Notre Dame this weekend, as the Irish set 11 school records on their way to extending the longest Big East Conference Championship winning streak for any sport with their 13th straight crown.  

The squad controlled the meet from start to finish, wrapping up with a total of 828 points, a runaway victory over second place Louisville, who finished with 581. ?

“We really had a good performance, and it came from everybody,” Irish coach Brian Barnes said. “A lot of girls stepped up across the board, and our depth and team commitment was the deciding factor. That’s what championship teams do.”?

In competition on Friday, the Irish set the tone for the day behind the performances of juniors Ashlee Edgell and Megan Farrell in the 400-yard individual medley. The pair tagged up in 4:15.17 and 4:16.42 for the top two spots. Next, in the 100-yard butterfly, sophomore Kellyn Kuhlke ran away from the field in 53.46 for first place, breaking the school record set in the preliminaries set by fellow sophomore Amywren Miller. ?

Sophomore Samantha Maxwell was the next swimmer to steal the show, obliterating both school and conference records to win the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:00.38.

Maxwell was soon followed by junior Maggie Behrens, who set a school record of her own in the 100-yard backstroke in 54.11 to grab second place. ?

Behrens, Kuhlke, Maxwell and Miller combined in the last event of the day, the 400-yard medley relay.  The four star performers once again crushed the school and conference records with a time of?3:36.20 for the win. ?

On the last day of competition, the Irish continued to bring down the hammer on the rest of the field. To start the day, sophomore distance specialist Lauren Sylvester grabbed third place in the 1,650 freestyle in 16:40.80. Next, Miller added to her awards with second place in the 100 free in a time of 49.14. ?

Maxwell wrapped up her championships in the 200-yard breastroke, where she continued the school and conference record-breaking trend with a speedy 2:10.35 for the win.

Wrapping up the day, junior Natalie Stitt snagged her second win of the meet in the three-meter dive with a  score of 294.30, while sophomore Heidi Grossman’s 284.30 earned her the third spot.  

Junior Zeina Shanata, freshmen Amy Prestinario, senior Christina Riggins and Miller combined for a 3:21.16 third place effort in the 400-yard freestyle relay.

“All season we have talked about swimming well and being confident and working like a team,” Barnes said. “It takes more than one or two stars to win a title, and at this meet we performed like a team and won like a team.”

“It wasn’t easy coming into this team in August with no familiarity with the program, but the team really embraced me,” Barnes said. “I am so lucky that I have a motivated group who believes in what I believe in, and we are going to continue to learn and grow.”

The Irish will travel next to the Boilermaker Invitational in West Lafayette, Ind. to prepare for the NCAA Zone Diving Championships March 13-14 and NCAA Swimming Championships March 19-21.


The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



The Champs are here

Mike Gotimer | Monday, February 23, 2009

Notre Dame’s run to a second consecutive Big East title came on the heels of one of the most dramatic finishes in the program’s history.

In a meet that came down to the final race, the third-seeded 400-yard freestyle relay team entered the race as a seven second underdog to top-seeded Louisville. However, the Irish squad of junior John Lytle, senior Danny Lutkus, sophomore Joshua Nosal and junior Andrew Hoffman were undeterred by the challenge, as Lytle took the lead in the first leg and the Irish never looked back. The win gave the Irish a 9.5-point lead and the Big East title.

“I hardly know what to say … congratulations to every team that swam in the championships,” Irish coach Tim Welsh said. “What is so important about our guys is how much more unified the team became this week. The championship came down to one race, and that time was five seconds faster than last year’s time with the same guys. I am so proud of our guys, our team and our program.”

Although Notre Dame took a lead into the final day of competition, the Irish suspected that their third title in four years would come down to the wire.

“We told the guys before the meet that it might come down to the last race, and if we were victorious, we would win,” Welsh said. “Our guys knew all along it might come to this and they were prepared for it. All I knew is that the guys were going to give it everything they had and we knew we would race well. The seniors and the upperclassmen will remember this forever.”

The relay team set one of four Irish records on Saturday. Lytle broke the Notre Dame record in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 43.48 seconds in the preliminaries and went on to best his own time with a 43.46 second performance that earned him second place. Sophomore Michael Sullivan set a school record during his second place finish in the finals of the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 1:45.10.

In the 200-yard butterfly, junior MacKenzie LeBlanc posted a season-best time of 1:46.53 in the preliminaries, which was an NCAA B-cut time. He later broke the Notre Dame record in the finals during his fourth place finish with a time of 1:45.06. The time was also the fastest ever by a Notre Dame swimmer in the event at the Big East Championships.

Three new Irish records highlighted Friday’s action. Sullivan set a school record with his third place finish in the 400-yard individual medley with a time of 3:51.13, which was good for an NCAA B-cut as well. Lytle set a school record in the preliminaries of the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:37.04. He bested that mark with his first place finish in the finals with a time of 1:35.79. The 400-yard medley relay team of sophomore Joseph Raycroft, senior Mitchell Sherman, LeBlanc and Lytle finished fifth in a time of 3:16.74 to best the old Notre Dame record.

Senior Michael Bulfin led the Irish divers on Friday in the 3-meter event. His second place finish was good enough for All-Big East honors. Sophomore Eric Lex also earned all-conference honors with his third place finish in the event.