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‘Leaning on each other’: Notre Dame swimming and diving boasts successful season despite challenges

| Friday, May 13, 2022

After the resignation of former head coach Mike Litzinger in October 2021, the Notre Dame swim and dive team had a wrench thrown in their season even before it officially began. Additionally, cancellation granted the Irish only five chances to compete before ACCs. Nevertheless, the team was able to accomplish record-setting performances. Graduate student diver Kelly Straub emphasized the importance of the team atmosphere, especially this season.

“We did a really good job of leaning on each other,” Straub said. “There were a lot of hardships and the season tends to drag on. As with any swim and dive team, there tend to be frustrations at the end. It’s been a long season. But, with that, I think the team did a really good job of recognizing when we need some positivity and turned it around and made sure our mindset was in the right place.” 

Regular Season 

After a few victories, the Ohio State Invitational kicked things off in earnest. Several swimmers picked up NCAA B cut times and school records. Senior captain Josh Bottelberghe had a particularly incredible weekend. He set school records in the 100 and 200 breaststroke. Hosting the Tim Welsh Classic in the spring, the swimmers had a strong showing, with a school record-setting performance by the men’s 400 medley relay team composed of Bottelberghe, junior Charles Korndorffer, junior Cason Wilburn and freshman Chris Guiliano. 

The Irish swept UIC in a final regular-season dual meet, and all eyes turned to ACCs

ACC Championships

For the men, Guiliano broke the school record in the 50 freestyle with a time of 19.17. The quartet of Guiliano, sophomore Kaden Smesko, Bottelberghe and Wilburn broke the school record in the 200 Medley Relay. They earned an NCAA A cut with a time of 1:23.81. The quartet later earned a school record in the 400 medley relay. On the next day of competition, Bottelberghe broke his own record in the 100 breaststroke. He touched the wall at a 51.61, earning him a second-place finish in the A final. 

Similar to the men, the women also earned an NCAA A Cut in the 200 Medley Finals. Freshman Jessica Geriane, junior Elizabeth Fry, junior Coleen Gillilan and freshman Madelyn Christman finished seventh overall with a time of 1:37.53. Senior Luciana Thomas also earned her berth at NCAAs with a time of 1:55.06 in the 100 butterfly. She also qualified in the 500 freestyle with a 4:44.96.

NCAA Women’s Championships

The Irish women kicked things off down in Atlanta, Georgia as the NCAA Women’s Championships took place March 17-19. Luciana Thomas (500 freestyle and 200 butterfly) was the lone qualifier for the women swimmers. Graduate student Kelly Straub (3-meter, 1-meter) and freshman Calie Brady (1-meter) represented the divers. Thomas had a personal best in the 500 freestyle (4:43.52), taking 26th overall. Her 200 butterfly time of 1:55.12 placed her 19th, marking her last time in the pool for the Irish. 

For the divers, Brady finished 37th overall in her NCAA debut. Straub finished 14th overall in both the 1-meter diving (294.55) and 3-meter diving (324.25). The performance earned her two Honorable Mention All-American titles that weekend.

NCAA Men’s Championships

Senior Josh Bottelberghe (100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke), sophomore Tyler Christianson (100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke) and Chris Guiliano (50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle) represented the Irish as individual qualifiers at the national meet. Getting off to a fast start, The 200 medley relay team of Smesko, Bottelberghe, Wilburn and Guiliano broke their own school record with a time of 1:23.76 as they finished 18th overall in the event. 

The squad of Smesko, Bottelberghe, Cason Wilburn and Guiliano set their second school record of the championships, this time in the 400 medley relay. They finished 21st overall with a school-record time of 3:05.93. 

Individually, Bottelberghe placed 12th overall in the 100 breaststroke finals to earn Honorable Mention All-American status. Christianson completed the 100 breaststroke (54.37) but was disqualified in the 200 breaststroke. Guiliano made his individual championship debut, posting strong efforts in the 50 freestyle (19.25), 200 freestyle (1:34.03) and 100 freestyle (42.55) throughout the course of the weekend. 

Strong performances by both the men and women at NCAA championship marked the end of an atypical season for the Irish. Glancing into next season, there seem to be many promising opportunities for both the swimmers and divers.

Outside the pool: Looking ahead

In most recent news for the Irish, the long and thorough search for a new swimming and diving head coach concluded with the introduction of Chris Lindauer. Chosen for his great coaching success, his understanding of the importance of academics and his innate ability to connect with student athletes, Lindauer is officially the new Peterson Family Head Coach.

Lindauer comes to South Bend after 13 seasons at Louisville, most recently as associate head coach. He has coached numerous Olympians, NCAA champions and All-American student athletes. Lindauer was a student athlete at Louisville himself. Specifically, he was an All-American and four-time Big East champion.

Lindauer certainly brings a lot of experience to the table, providing the Irish with a strong base for next season.

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