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Men’s Swimming: Irish to open season with Dennis Stark Relays

By Megan Golden | Thursday, October 13, 2011

After an offseason of extended core training, the new-look Irish squad is anxious to plunge into the pool for its first test this season as it takes on Michigan, Texas Christian, Valparaiso and Oakland this weekend.

The Irish will begin competition Friday with the 47th annual Dennis Stark Relays and continue with a dual home meet the following day. Michigan and Texas Christian are set to compete both days of the races, and Oakland will replace Valparaiso on Saturday.

“It’s probably the fastest field ever assembled,” Irish coach Tim Welsh said. “To that extent, that makes it a very tough meet. It’s exciting to race somebody besides ourselves, so we’re looking forward to this weekend a lot.”

Notre Dame’s roster includes 16 freshmen—12 swimmers and four divers. Welsh said this weekend will provide the inexperienced team with several challenges.

“That is a whole lot of freshmen. This is a brand new team for us,” he said. “The first thing we’re looking for this weekend is to say, ‘What is this new team all about?’ We’re going to look to see what their racing [and] competitive [attitudes are] like and the facts of how fast we go. What’s our team likely to evolve into in the course of the season?”

After graduating eight seniors, the young team focused primarily on core fitness during the offseason. Welsh said the Dennis Stark Relays will bring in some of the best competition Notre Dame will face this season, and he is excited to discover the strengths of his new team.

“This weekend is our opening two meets of the season. It’s our first chance to see this team,” Welsh said. “Every fall season is fitness-based, so whether in the weight room, pool or on dry land, core fitness increases volume, involves kicking and breath control. We’ve had a bunch of tests and what we’ve done is core-fitness based. How fit are we?”

With a new team chemistry and makeup, the Irish are full of energy and eager to find out what this team is all about, Welsh said.

“There is fresh energy in this group,” he said. “Not only numerically, but one of the things we’re about to do is leave behind what normally is at a higher level. We can see some fresh energy going into this every day. Our old relationships are different now.”

Irish senior Marshall Sherman and junior Chris Johnson have been given the opportunity to lead this inexperienced team as co-captains. The Irish veterans have done their part to assure the freshmen that, while this meet is a crucial step on the Irish schedule, it will not make or break their bright futures, Welsh said.

“Everybody cares. This is a very important weekend,” Welsh said. “There [are] an awful lot of first-time swims and first-time dives, and we know to be excited about it. It’s the beginning of the world and not the end of the world, but we want to begin well.”

The Irish will compete in the Dennis Stark Relays Friday at 5 p.m. and return to action Saturday at 11 a.m. at Rolfs Aquatic Center.

Contact Megan Golden at [email protected]