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Men’s Swimming: Top freshmen making a splash for the Irish

Chris Allen | Tuesday, March 2, 2010

As first-time performers on the intercollegiate stage, freshmen in all sports are often expected to undergo an adjustment period as they learn the college stage. The Irish freshmen, however, have quickly adjusted and contributed in a number of key ways over the course of the team’s regular season and postseason.
“The learning curve is similar to that which you see in basketball and football,” Irish coach Tim Welsh said. “As a senior in high school you race against 14-year-olds and here you race against 23-year-old men. Also, racers in college focus on technique and turns, which aren’t really emphasized in high school.”
Any discussion of the Notre Dame freshman begins and ends with Bill Bass, who broke a number of records in a virtuoso debut season for the Irish. Bass, who came onto campus as a decorated all-stroke swimmer in high school, did not miss a beat in the pool. Bass’ highlights this season include a Notre Dame school record in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 1:46.44 at the Big East championships in Pittsburgh. His performance came on top of a previous season-best time of 1:50.70 in the same event that scored a victory for the Irish in their Shamrock Invitational. Bass’s contributions have not gone unnoticed by his coach.
“We’ve seen great things from Bill Bass right away,” Welsh said. “Especially at the Big East championships. It’s evident that he’s gotten bigger and stronger over the year.”
A number of other Irish freshman have contributed for Notre Dame this year, among them breaststroke specialist Christopher Johnson. An Indiana state champion in the 100-yard breaststroke in high school, Johnson carried his breaststroke success with him to the Irish pool. He took first in the Big East consolation round of his signature event with a time of 55.63 seconds and will look to move into the championship round in the coming years.
“Chris Johnson has great initial speed, and you can’t coach speed,” Welsh said. “He has learned how to carry that through the whole race.”
Welsh said several of his freshmen would see increased roles come next year’s swim season.
“This is a very good freshman class,” Welsh said. “We’re very confident that they’re going to do great things in the coming years. There’s plenty where that came from too, because next year’s class is just as good.”
Bass, Johnson and the rest of the Irish swimmers will be back in action this weekend at the Boiler-Make-It Invitational at Purdue on March 7.