Men look to capitalize following fourth-place ACC finish by women’s team
Jimmy Ward | Thursday, February 28, 2019
The Notre Dame women’s swimming and diving team successfully completed the ACC Championship with a fourth-place team finish Saturday after spending nearly two weeks off of competition in the water.
The women’s team took on elite competition last week at the ACC Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina. Its fourth-place finish came from an accumulated 909.5 points over the four-day competition. The Irish finished the meet with seven top-10 finishes, six of which were individual events.
“We finished fourth, and my first year at Notre Dame we were barely seventh place with around 537 points,” Irish head coach Mike Litzinger said. “Four years later, here we are. We climbed up four spots, finished with 909 points, had medalists, top-three finishes individually, set five school records and qualified seven women for the NCAA [Championship], so I feel pretty good about it.”
In the diving pit, the women were led by junior Erin Isola who placed seventh in the one-meter dive with a score of 273.2 points. Freshman Sinead Eksteen finished seventh in the 1,650-yard swim with a time of 16:18.80. Senior Nikki Smith capped off the strong Irish performance on the final day of competition, recording a program-best 200-yard fly time. Smith reached the wall in 1:54.66, earning a second-place finish.
“[We’re] really proud of Nicki. She has developed wonderfully as an athlete — more so as a person — here at Notre Dame. We had some goals to chase this year, and one of those goals was to be a medalist at the ACC level and to put herself in elite company and score at the NCAAs,” Litzinger said of Smith’s success. “First steps have certainly been taken, but she has just had a tremendous year from the beginning right through the championship, so we’re looking forward to seeing what she can do at the NCAA Championships in a month.”
The women qualified seven swimmers for the NCAA Championship, and the diving team is heading to a regional qualifying meet in West Lafayette, Indiana, in two weeks. With one of their most important performances of the season behind them, the women will watch on as the men take on elite-level competition in the ACC. With the competition opening Wednesday, the men jumped out to a strong start behind a sixth-place team finish in the 800-yard freestyle relay featuring sophomores Sadler McKeen and Zach Yeadon, junior Aaron Schultz and freshman Marci Barta.
Yeadon and Barta having been setting the tone for the Irish early in the season. Both men have already qualified for the NCAA Championships individually. Barta currently holds the fourth-best 400 individual medley time in the nation, while Yeadon holds the fourth-best 1,650-meter and 1,000-meter free times in the country.
“In my time at Notre Dame, [the men have] gone from [seventh] place, we finished third two years ago, barely were fourth last year — just a couple points shy of third place from Virginia — so it is a battle to be in that top three. We have the talent to do that,” Litzinger said. “We’ve had a great dual meet season. It’s been really challenging, but I think these guys are ready to step forward. We’ve built them as a championship-type team, meaning that we can spread our talent out over a four-day championship meet, and I’m looking forward to them doing that this week.”
The men’s ACC Championship will conclude March 2. Following the conference championship, the Irish will await final seeding for the NCAA tournament before traveling to Austin, Texas, at the end of March to compete on the national stage.