Notre Dame women complete first two days of competition at NCAA Championships
Charlotte Edmonds | Friday, March 22, 2019
Halfway through the 2019 swim and dive national championship, the Irish are looking to make up ground with the remaining two days of competition.
“The NCAAs is the pinnacle of our season,” head coach Mike Litzinger said. “To qualify for this meet you have to be in very elite company, so there’s general excitement about that.”
In his fourth year leading the Irish, Litzinger maintained that the biggest takeaway for him was the progress the program has made throughout his tenure, going from one swimmer qualifying for the national stage in 2016 to 12 swimmers and three divers competing this weekend in Austin, Texas.
“The excitement of having a pretty full team is also very motivating,” he said. “We’re participating as a team.”
On day one, junior Abbie Dolan started things out for the Irish as the leadoff leg in the 800-meter relay, followed by junior Lauren Heller, sophomore Skylar Fore and, finally, senior Kyra Sarazen, who touched the wall in 19th place, just seconds off the school record.
“For us to be right on our very best was very solid,” Litzinger said. “The thing that stood out for me was Abbie Dolan’s leadoff leg was one of the fastest … so that bodes well for her individual event coming up.”
The Irish returned to the pool Thursday for two relays and one individual race. The Irish claimed 24th place in their first event of the day — the 200-meter freestyle relay. Meanwhile, sophomore Lindsay Stone swam a 4:46.97 500-meter freestyle to finish fifth in her heat. Finally, the 400-meter medley relay took the pool, finishing in 22nd.
On the other end of the pool, sophomore diver Kelly Straub claimed the highest individual finish of the meet thus far, tallying 281.55 points for 20th place in the one-meter competition.
“The diving is a young group … they’ve done a tremendous job to get to the point,” Litzinger said. “They just need to step up and get their job done.”
As Litzinger and the women’s team descended upon the Texas Swimming Center, the men’s team remained in South Bend, preparing to make its own trip to Austin on Sunday, with competition opening Wednesday. Although both teams have primarily competed as a unit in dual meets, Litzinger said their makeup and strategy are quite different, with the women featuring a stronger upperclassmen presence.
“Kyra Sarazen, Abbie Dolan, Alice Treuth, Nikki Smith — they’ve done a really good job leading a really young group of kids,” he said.
Meanwhile, the men’s team will only be sending four athletes — junior Aaron Schultz, sophomore Zach Yeadon and freshmen Marci Barta and Josh Bottelberghe.
“I’m leaning on our coaches and their experience to help guide that,” Litzinger said of the young quartet.
Those same coaches are the key to Litzinger’s whole system. The unique challenge of coaching two separate teams at such an important point of the season didn’t seem to faze the head coach, who credited his supporting staff as being a huge part of his coaching ability, with two assistants staying home “wrapping up the guys.”