June 30, 2004
One of the most decorated student-athletes in any sport in Notre Dame history, Carrie Nixon has returned to her alma mater to become an assistant coach for its women’s swimming and diving team, head coach Bailey Weathers announced recently. Nixon, a 2002 graduate and former NCAA recordholder in the 50-yard freestyle who won 18 BIG EAST titles and earned All-America honors on 12 occasions, replaced the departed Anne Marie Stricklin. Stricklin and her husband Brad, Conference USA’s assistant commissioner for business, will move to the Dallas area as a result of the relocation of the league’s offices.
“The team and I are sad to see Anne Marie and Brad move on,” said Weathers. “We understand this was an important decision for their family. I think Anne Marie did a great job and contributed an enormous amount to the program. We were very fortunate to have had her, and we wish her the best of luck.”
Nixon, who was an assistant coach for the Clemson University men’s and women’s teams last season, began her duties earlier this month.
“I’m really looking forward to working with Carrie,” said Weathers. “She did a great job as an athlete here, and she excelled in coaching at Clemson. I think her future in coaching is extremely bright. She adds a huge dimension to our program, understanding the University and what it takes to be a great athlete here at Notre Dame, and the sacrifices that go with that. She also has a wonderful personality, one that will really complement where we are going as a program.”
“I’m very excited,” said Nixon. “It’s a great opportunity for me, and I think this team has a great opportunity for tremendous success in the next couple of years. I really think we have some fast swimming ahead, as well as a great future for Irish swimming and diving. I’m glad to be back here. I’ve missed Notre Dame a lot in the time I’ve been away, and I am very glad to come back home.”
Nixon was Clemson’s coordinator of recruiting, while working primarily with the sprinters, butterflyers, and IMers in the pool. She helped the Tigers to an outstanding season in 2003-04, as both squads finished among the top 40 at the NCAA Championships (men-tied for 35th, women-39th). The Clemson men, who scored points in the NCAAs for the first time since 1989, were 13-2-1 (4-1-1 ACC) in dual-meet action, registering their highest victory total in the 52-year history of the program before winning two titles and taking fourth place at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships. The women’s team was 10-5 (1-4 ACC) – its highest win total since 1988 – and finished fifth in the ACC meet. Three swimmers earned invitations to the NCAA meet, with a pair of them being named honorable mention All-America. The Tigers also had one CoSIDA Academic All-American. A total of nine Clemson records fell during the ’03-04 campaign, seven on the men’s side, as well as two women’s marks.
Among her other duties at Clemson, Nixon was the webmaster for its swimming and diving alumni internet site and the organizer of the Tigers’ first annual alumni meet.
Two years after graduating, Nixon remains one of the most accomplished Notre Dame student-athletes in any sport. During her time at Notre Dame, she was twice tabbed an All-American and on 10 other occasions named honorable mention All-America. She won 18 BIG EAST titles – six individual and 12 relays – which stands one shy of the Irish record. In 2000, Nixon set the NCAA record in the 50 free, became the first Irish swimmer to win a preliminary race at the NCAA Championships, and finished fourth at the NCAAs in the 50, a result that still stands as the best-ever by a Notre Dame swimmer. She also was tabbed the BIG EAST Championships Most Outstanding Swimmer that year.
Nixon, who missed the 2000-01 season with a shoulder injury, remains the Notre Dame recordholder in the 50 (22.39) and 100 free (49.18), as well as the 100 butterfly (54.07). She also swam on four relay teams that still hold Irish records: the 200 free (1:32.01), 400 free (3:21.25), 200 medley (1:41.93), and 400 medley (3:40.98). The BIG EAST Championships records still feature Nixon in three events – 50 free (22.58), 200 free relay, and 400 medley relay – and her time of 22.94 in the 50 in the 1998 Notre Dame Invitational is the quickest in Rolfs Aquatic Center history, as is the 3:45.77 mark by the 400 medley relay team she anchored in the 2001 Shamrock Invitational.
Nixon, three times voted Notre Dame’s MVP, also participated in the U.S. Olympic trials in 2000, taking 21st in the 50-meter freestyle and finishing in the top 40 in both the 100 free and 100 fly.
She graduated in May of 2002 from the College of Arts & Letters as a preprofessional studies/anthropology and computer applications double major. As a senior, Nixon was honored with the Francis Patrick O’Connor Award, which recognizes one female and one male Notre Dame student-athlete who best exemplify the spirit and leadership the University embodies in their actions and inspirations to their respective teams.
Nixon graduated from Ouray High School in Ouray, Colo., as its valedictorian in 1997. She was a five-time Colorado state champion for the Montrose High School swim team, on which she competed because Ouray did not have one. She won three state championships in the 50 free and a pair in the 100. Nixon was named the 1996 Colorado Sportswoman of the Year and the state’s high school swimmer of the year in ’97. Upon enrolling at Notre Dame, she held 10 state summer club records and a pair of Colorado prep records. She also set every Montrose school record except two. Nixon was recruited by a number of top collegiate swim teams, as well as various top Division I volleyball programs.
Additionally, Nixon placed 25th in the 50 free at the senior national meet in Fort Lauderdale in 1996 and was second in both the 50 and 100 in the 1997 NISCA National High School Championships.
Nixon was active in club swimming first for the Ouray Swimming Team and then for the Montrose Marlins club, coached by Silas Almgren.
Upon graduation from Notre Dame, Nixon returned to her native area and served as an assistant coach for the Ouray High School volleyball team and the Ouray club swimming team, instructing children from six to 17 years of age in the latter pursuit. She also has served as a counselor and coach at the Notre Dame summer swimming camp on four occasions (1999-2001, ’03).
Stricklin, who was an All-American swimmer under Weathers at the University of South Carolina, arrived at Notre Dame in June 2002 after serving as the head men’s and women’s swimming coach at Northern Illinois University from 1999-2002. In her time with the Irish, Notre Dame posted a 17-3-1 (.833) dual-meet record, twice finished in the top 20 of the CSCAA dual-meet rankings, won a pair of BIG EAST titles (both by at least 150 points), and finished in the top 35 at the NCAA meet twice. Individually, Notre Dame student-athletes gained six invitations to the NCAA Championships, earned five All-America honors, won 14 BIG EAST event championships, and three major conference awards, while breaking eight different school records.
“I’m definitely sad to be leaving Notre Dame,” said Stricklin. “It’s been a terrific experience over the past two years. I’ve really enjoyed working with the women’s and men’s swimmers. They are a great group of individuals, and I am sad to be leaving them. I wish them nothing but the best of success. I will definitely keep tabs on them.”
Stricklin plans to spend a lot of time caring for her first child, Sara, who was born in October 2004. She also intends to stay active in the swimming community by doing some age-group coaching on a part-time basis.
Nixon continues a trend of former student-athletes returning to Notre Dame to work in its athletic department, which now features no fewer than 15 former competitors. Ten of those are coaches: head women’s cross country coach Tim Connelly (’83) and head hockey coach Dave Poulin (’82), assistants Michelle Dasso (’01, women’s tennis), Kris McCleary Ganeff (’99, softball), Nixon, Andy Slaggert (’89, hockey), Coquese Washington (’92, women’s basketball), and Chris Whitten (’02, men’s golf), as well as men’s basketball coordinator of basketball operations Martin Inglesby (’01) and men’s lacrosse volunteer assistant Steve Bishko (’01). In addition to a variety of others who worked in the athletic department as managers or in some other capacity as undergrads, five other former Notre Dame student-athletes are now in non-coaching roles in the athletic department. Former women’s basketball player Missy Conboy (’82) is the senior associate athletics director, while former football player Brian Boulac (’63) is an assistant athletics director. Former women’s basketball player Sara Liebscher (’91) and men’s lacrosse’s Adam Sargent (’99) are advisors for the department of academic services for student-athletes, and former men’s basketball player Harold Swanagan (’02) is a strength and conditioning intern. The president of the University, Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C. (’63), also played basketball for the Irish.
Weathers and Nixon will helm a 2004-05 squad that returns 19 of 26 monogram winners from a team that was 8-2 in dual-meet action, won its eighth consecutive BIG EAST title, finished 25th in the NCAA Championships, and 20th in the final CSCAA dual-meet national rankings. The Irish will return their top competitor in 11 of 16 individual events next season, and four of the top five performers in every event but one will be back for the ’04-05 season.