March 24, 2018
by Tony Jones
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – A successful weekend in the pool at the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships concluded in record fashion for the University of Notre Dame on Saturday night. A podium effort in the 1650 freestyle for freshman Zach Yeadon pushed the Irish to a share of 23rd place, the best men’s team finish at the national meet in program history, following the completion of finals heats at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center.
Notre Dame scored 29 points over the four-day meet despite not having an entry in the 800 freestyle relay, the only event on Wednesday’s opening night. The 29 points equaled last season’s Irish meet total as the most in a single NCAA Championships competition in the Notre Dame record book.
Yeadon, the Notre Dame record holder in the mile with a time of 14:34.60 set earlier this season, threw down a finals effort of 14:35.98 to place fourth in the nation. Yeadon’s fourth-place finish equaled Frank Dyer in the 200 freestyle at the 2012 NCAA Championships for the best individual result for a Notre Dame male swimmer ever at the national meet. Yeadon joined the likes of Dyer (2012 and 2014 200 freestyle) and Trent Jackson (2017 200 breaststroke) as Irish swimmers who have earned First-Team All-America honors.
“A tremendous effort by Zach Yeadon tonight,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Litzinger said. “He is a true competitor and for a freshman handled the intensity of this meet very well. Our guys raced as a team all week long, and we came away with multiple All-Americans and our highest ever finish as a program.
“We loved having our seniors, Joe Coumos, Rob Whitacre and Justin Plaschka score points in their final meet,” Litzinger said. “Our underclassmen are now seasoned and looking ahead. Our future at this meet is bright.”
In his final career swim in the 200 backstroke, Whitacre narrowly missed ‘B’ final qualification and All-America honors with a gutsy prelim performance. Whitacre clocked in 17th with a time of 1:40.29, just .02 above the finals window, to further cement his claim to being the best men’s backstroker in Notre Dame history.
To close the meet in the 400 freestyle relay, Notre Dame’s Tabahn Afrik, Plaschka, Daniel Speers and Aaron Schultz were on the verge of finals qualification, cruising in officially in 17th place with a time of 2:51.28.
Notre Dame At The 2018 NCAA Men’s Championships
Zach Yeadon, 1650 Freestyle – 14:35.98, 4th Place (ties best ND individual NCAA finish)
Zach Yeadon, 500 Freestyle – 4:13.95, 10th Place
Joe Coumos, 1-Meter Diving – 325.70 Points, 14th Place
Rob Whitacre, 400 Medley Relay – :46.39 leadoff 100 backstroke split (ND record)
200 Medley Relay (Whitacre, Shek, Plaschka, Speers) – 1:25.21, 15th Place
First-Team All-American – Zach Yeadon (1650 Freestyle)
Honorable Mention All-Americans – Zach Yeadon (500 Freestyle), Joe Coumos (1-Meter Diving), Rob Whitacre (200 Medley Relay), Steven Shek (200 Medley Relay), Justin Plaschka (200 Medley Relay), Daniel Speers (200 Medley Relay)
Tony Jones, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2012 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame softball, men’s soccer and swimming and diving programs. A native of Jamestown, New York, Jones is a 2011 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and prior to arriving at Notre Dame held positions at the University of Louisiana Monroe and with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills.