Men earn historic third-place finish at ACCs
Jack Concannon | Tuesday, March 7, 2017
The No. 19 Irish men’s team headed to Atlanta last week for the ACC championship, where the team claimed 923.5 points, good enough for a third-place finish — the first time the team has reached the podium since joining the ACC.
The rest of the top five included champion N.C. State (1297.5 points) and Louisville (1134) in front of the Irish, with Virginia Tech (883.5) and Florida State (730) also putting together strong days.
“We talked a lot about how if things fell the right way we could be in the hunt for a third-place finish,” Irish Head Coach Mike Litzinger said. “We certainly found that to be the case. About halfway through the race, it was between us and Virginia Tech. It was up to us to cash in our chips and get it done.”
The Irish had several key swims that allowed them to claim third. No relay team finished any lower than fourth, which is crucial considering relays are worth double points compared to individual events. Senior Trent Jackson was Notre Dame’s only participant in the 200-yard breaststroke, and he was able to take a fourth-place 1:53.52, a seasonal best for Jackson and yet another spot where the Irish came away with crucial points.
The day saw several records broken as the Irish competed for a championship. Junior Richard Mannix’s 15:07 in the 1,650-yard freestyle earned him a sixth-place finish and broke a Notre Dame program record by seven full seconds. Junior Robby Whitacre’s 200-yard backstroke time of 1:41.07 placed him in fifth, and his time of 1:40.60 in the preliminary meet broke a program record.
Junior Justin Plaschka, sophomore Tabahn Afrik, senior Reed Fujan and sophomore Daniel Speers set a program record in the 400-yard freestyle relay with a time of 2:51.56 to earn third place.
“Those relays are double points, they really count and they’re exciting,” Litzinger said. “They boost the team’s confidence. Our performance in those events was important to get where we were.”
Junior Joe Coumos continued his run of dominance in diving, winning the 1-meter diving event outright.
Overall, Litzinger was pleased with the results, he said.
“This was a great way to send our seniors out,” Litzinger said. “They came into Notre Dame with certain expectations, and now we’re filling those expectations. They left the program in great shape. We’re at a new level now, expectations have changed. When you’re a top three team in the ACC, there’s a responsibility that comes along with that. This was a big moment for our men’s swimming and diving team.
“We’re sending eight guys to the NCAA championships, so it’s time for us to step up. Next year, it’s going to be important to repeat. So we’ll need to step up and see if we can come out and repeat.”
Next for Notre Dame, the No. 24 women’s team will compete at the NCAA championships starting March 15.