Irish athletes take on top-tier competition
Ryan Kolakowski | Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Zach Yeadon was used to placing at the top of the podium whenever he raced in long-distance freestyle events. This weekend, Yeadon found himself in the unusual position of looking up at the victor, rather than looking down at the rest of the competition.
Yeadon, a sophomore freestyler for the Irish, claimed second place in both the 500-yard and 1,000-yard freestyle events this weekend at the ACC-Big Ten Challenge at Purdue University, marking the first time all season that Yeadon failed to win the events at a meet.
Irish head coach Mike Litzinger noted that Yeadon was competing against elite swimmers from across the nation at this meet.
“[This meet is] really important, and the reason being is that the guys that he swam against this weekend are the top guys in the country at their events,” Litzinger said.
Yeadon, a native of San Antonio, shattered the Notre Dame record books as a freshman, setting new program bests in the 500, 1,000, and 1,650-yard freestyle events. The First-Team All-American was outgunned by Michigan’s Ricardo Vargas and Indiana’s Zachary Apple, respectively.
“They’ll be his top competition at the end of the year,” Litzinger said. “I think Zach is in a really great spot with his times this early in the year.”
Yeadon was joined by nine other Irish athletes at the ACC-Big Ten Swimming and Diving challenge. Freshman Marci Barta competed in two individual medley events, claiming third place in both the 200 and 400-yard IM events.
Litzinger said the Irish recruited Barta to be an elite IM swimmer, and the native of Szombathely, Hungary has been just that for Notre Dame.
Barta and Yeadon joined teams of other athletes from the ACC to compete in relay events at Purdue. Yeadon’s ACC team took second place in the 800-yard freestyle relay, and Barta’s team immediately followed in third place. The teams include some of the top swimmers from each conference.
“It’s an honor to be selected as one of the top freestylers in the league,” Litzinger said. “When you put that firepower together it can produce really great results.”
Junior Abbie Dolan competed in two freestyle relay events, competing with the second-place teams in both the 400 and 800-yard freestyle relays. While the top Irish athletes have seen success, the newly formed teams have their struggles.
“Everyone is trying hard to hold up their end of the bargain, but we don’t have the same synchronicity on relay exchanges,” Litzinger said. “There’s a little hesitancy, but all the athletes handled it really well.”
Litzinger said that this event helps to provide some context as to where the Irish fit on the national swimming landscape. The Irish head coach noted that the talent level across the country seems to continue getting better.
“It’s really fast out there,” he said. “On the women’s side, the Big Ten dominated. On the men’s side, we were in a really good spot to win that meet, but just got touched out in an event that made the difference in the meet.”
Next week, the Irish athletes will rejoin their Notre Dame teammates in competition. The Notre Dame swimming and diving program will be traveling to Columbus, Ohio for the Ohio State Fall Invitational this Thursday.