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ND Women’s Swimming: Casey uses national team experience at Notre Dame

Brian Hartnett | Tuesday, January 24, 2012

For most incoming college students, the summer before college represents one final joyous period of leisure, a time to reflect and recharge before advancing to the rigors of college. For freshman Bridget Casey, however, the final summer before college signified an opportunity to prove herself among the best of her sport and add a signature achievement to her stellar resume.

Mere weeks before arriving at Notre Dame, Casey competed in the ConocoPhillips National Championships at Stanford University. Facing top swimmers from across the nation, Casey finished 25th out of a field of 148 in her favorite event, the 200-meter butterfly. Casey later learned her performance had placed her fifth in the nation among 18-and-under swimmers in the event, earning her a spot on the prestigious USA Swimming National Junior Team.

“I actually didn’t even know I made the team until a few months later, when I was at school here and my old coach called to congratulate me,” Casey said. “I was really surprised since I didn’t even know if I was eligible to make it.

With her spot on the national team secured, Casey will have the opportunity to compete for her country on an international stage, as the top four swimmers in each event are selected for international competitions. Additionally, she will travel to the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., in April to meet other team members as well as swimming coaches from the national team.

For now though, Casey said she is enjoying the honor of being a National Junior Team member and applying the lessons learned from national competitions to her collegiate meets.

“Swimming in the national championships was definitely a lot of pressure and made me very nervous,” she said. “I think that being exposed to that kind of pressure beforehand has helped prepare me for big races like the Big East championships that are at the end of this month.”

With this exposure to pressure and tough competition, Casey has stepped in as a freshman to deliver several strong performances for the Irish. She has continued to excel in the 200-meter butterfly, winning the event at last Saturday’s meet against Michigan State and turning in her personal best time in the event at the Ohio State Invitational in October. She has also enjoyed success in the 1000-meter freestyle, an event that was foreign to her when she arrived at Notre Dame, earning two top-three finishes in the event.

“I definitely think that I’ve adjusted very well and adapted to my new coaches, surroundings and teammates,” Casey said. “I’m really happy that I’ve had the opportunity to help out and score points for the team.”

She also cited the close-knit culture of the team, especially among the freshman swimmers, as being instrumental in helping her make the adjustment to college swimming.

“Everyone on the team gets along really well, and we all push each other to do really well in practice,” she said. “We all really want to work hard and reach our goal of winning the Big East this year.”

Casey, however, doesn’t need to talk to just her teammates to hear some perspective on college swimming. In fact, she doesn’t even need to leave her house to hear such perspective. That’s because she happens to be related to four former Notre Dame swimmers. Casey’s father (Don Casey), uncle and two sisters all competed for the Irish during their time as students, ingraining Notre Dame into Casey’s life from a young age.

“I’ve been coming to Notre Dame since I was two years old,” Casey said. “Seeing [my sister] Katie on the team and hearing how much she loved it was a huge influence on my decision to come here. It was always my dream to come here.”

Following in the footsteps of her family members is not an easy task, but Casey said she feels as though she has started to make a name for herself.

“I was a little nervous coming in since I was curious to find out if I would just be known as Katie’s little sister or Don Casey’s daughter,” she said. “But I started with a clean slate and everyone knows me as Bridget Casey, the incoming freshman who swims the 200-fly.”

Casey and the rest of the Irish will compete in the Shamrock Invitational on Friday all day at the Rolfs Aquatic Center.

Contact Brian Hartnett at [email protected]