Irish set to begin season at Dennis Stark Relays
Daisy Costello | Friday, October 9, 2015
The Irish begin the 2015-16 season Friday when they host the annual Dennis Stark Relays. The Relays, which will be held at Rolfs Aquatic Center, are in their 51st year but will be without a special guest for the first time. Dennis Stark, for whom the Relays are named, died in December at 92. He was the first coach of the Irish Women’s Swimming and Diving team in 1981 and an annual guest at the Relays.
The Irish are led by first-year head coach Mike Litzinger, who comes to Notre Dame from ACC foe North Carolina. While with the Tar Heels, Litzinger coached seven runner-up finishes at the ACC championships in addition to top-20 finishes at the NCAA championships in his last four seasons. Litzinger said he wants to use this weekend’s meet as a benchmark to assess where changes need to be made and how effective team strategy is.
“My goals for the first meet are certainly to win, but more importantly to observe and evaluate how the women react in a competitive situation,” Litzinger said. “Developing a team dynamic, evaluating performance, individual race strategy will always be on my list of meet goals.”
Several key contributors from the 2014-15 season return for the Irish season, and although the graduation of All-American Emma Reaney left a big void in the roster, younger swimmers are ready for their turn to step up and contribute, Litzinger said.
Litzinger pointed to junior Catherine Mulquin, who swims the backstroke and freestyle, returning for the Irish on the back of two top-20 finishes in the “B” finals at the ACC championships in March. Litzinger said he believes the upperclassmen for the Irish will be a great asset for them in their first meet.
“Our upperclassmen women have been tremendous,” Litzinger said. “The divers and swimmers have communicated with the team and staff extremely well. We will have strong leadership this year.”
Sophomores Sherri McIntee and Molly Treble, the only Irish freshmen to compete at the ACC championships, also return this season ready to build upon their impressive freshmen campaigns. Treble finished the 2014-15 season with a career-best performance in the 200-yard freestyle at the ACC championships (1:50.65). McIntee finished 23rd in the “C” finals in the 200-yard breaststroke (1:03.92) at the ACC championships.
In addition to returning talent, Irish newcomers look to make an impact on the squad immediately coming off of illustrious high school and prep careers, Litzinger said. Freshman Sofia Revilak, a butterfly and free-style swimmer, swam a career best 1:01.41 in the 100-meter butterfly at the 2015 Pan-Am Games, for example.
The Irish may need to work out some kinks regarding their execution, but Litzinger said early season meets are so valuable because they give the team time to practice before the ACC and NCAA championships.
“We will always be working on racing. Competitive fire in practice and execution of skills will be a premium,” Litzinger said. “However, early in the season our weakness will be executing race strategy and detail work, like underwater kicking and turning. But that is why we swim and dive the meets, to get ready for championship execution.”
Last year, the Irish took second place in the Dennis Stark Relays, behind Ohio State. This year, Litzinger said he feels the depth of the team will help them bring home first-place at their season-opener.
“We are pretty deep in [butter]fly, back[stroke] and breast[stroke],” Litzinger said, “Our medley-relay teams should be good and in the diving end we have some good experience as well.”
The Irish kick off their season in the Dennis Stark Relays on Friday, Oct. 9. The events will begin in Rolfs Aquatic Center at 5 p.m.