Jan. 25, 2018
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” A lengthy road trip officially ends for the University of Notre Dame men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams this weekend. Returning to the Rolfs Aquatic Center for the first time in official competition since October, the No. 22 Irish welcome five other teams, Akron, No. RV/NR Iowa, Missouri State, No. 18/13 Ohio State and No. NR/18 Wisconsin, to the annual Shamrock Invitational on Friday and Saturday.
Friday’s action is slated to begin at 10 a.m. (ET), with session two on the opening day set to begin at 5 p.m. Saturday racing is tentatively scheduled to commence at 11:30 a.m. following Senior Day festivities, as Notre Dame recognizes seniors Garrett Clarke, Joe Coumos, Annie Crea, Soren Holm, Benjamin Jany, Richard Mannix, Sherri McIntee, Peter Myers, Justin Plaschka, Alyssa Storino, Molly Treble and Rob Whitacre for their contributions to Irish swimming and diving.
– ND Swimming & Diving (@NDSwimDive) January 25, 2018
“The Shamrock Invitational is an unusual meet because of the level of speed that you will see,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Litzinger said. “What’s really unique about it is that it is becoming more of a trend to get good teams together and raise your level of competition at this time of the year, instead of the usual head-to-head dual meet. It truly simulates a championship environment, and instead of being the exception these meets are becoming the norm now. It’s kind of like a spike in your performance and then you back it down and get ready for the championships, a little rumble before the big one.
“Next week we have a dual with Ball State and Wisconsin-Green Bay that might not be as hotly contested, but it will still be a great way to finish our dual season at home,” Litzinger added. “The Shamrock Invitational has taken on a reputation as being one of the better meets across the country.”
Irish Look To Build Off Big ACC Sweep At FSU
Notre Dame claimed a crucial Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) sweep over No. 20/25 Florida State by way of a 191-162 men’s score and a 193-160 decision on the women’s side last weekend at the Morcom Aquatics Center in Tallahassee.
The Irish men’s squad (7-2) rode six race victories and a pair of NCAA B-cut times to pull away from the 20th-ranked Seminoles on Saturday. Senior Rob Whitacre was a triple-winner for Notre Dame on the day, taking the 200 backstroke and 200 IM titles along with swimming in the triumphant 400 medley relay. Junior Tabahn Afrik added wins in the 100 free and with the 400 medley relay, while freshman Zach Yeadon swept the meet’s distance events with an NCAA B-cut win in the 500 freestyle. Senior Joe Coumos, who was ultimately named the ACC Men’s Diver of the Week, completed the weekend diving double with a win off the 1-meter board.
The Notre Dame women’s team (9-1) was vaulted ahead by three event wins and a number of point-earning swims to defend its sizeable lead from day one. Both junior Alice Treuth (200 backstroke) and sophomore Abbie Dolan (100 freestyle) posted Saturday victories for the Irish, while freshman Lindsay Stone put on another stellar performance in a 500 freestyle win.
“That was exactly what last week was all about, to come out with a big win on the road,” Litzinger said. “Florida State was our fifth consecutive road meet, and the team responded really well. What we do with a two-day meet is approach it as a rehearsal meet, finals on a Friday evening and jump right into prelims, and we want them to respond appropriately. In the case of Florida State we knew we could have an upper hand on the women’s side but the men’s meet was going to be very close. The way we opened up the second day of the men’s competition by winning four consecutive events and putting the meet to rest right away was a great team effort, we challenged them and they rose to the occasion.”
Returning Home After An Extended Swing On The Road
The Shamrock Invitational will serve as the official return for Notre Dame to the Rolfs Aquatic Center for the first time since a dual sweep of Georgia Tech on Oct. 20. Since that time, the Irish men placed third at November’s Ohio State Fall Open Invitational and compiled a 4-1 dual mark, while Notre Dame’s women’s team also finished third at Ohio State and went a combined 6-0 in dual contests.
“Being home does a few things for us, especially at the end of the dual season,” Litzinger said. “We don’t have to travel, which is a lot different because everyone is in their own beds and it’s easier to manage and navigate, and it’s just always great to race at home. This weekend we’re also honoring our senior athletes which is fantastic, and it is a target meet for our parents so we’ll have a great group here supporting everyone and the crowd will be great at all the sessions. We really try not to travel as much as possible the last two or three meets of the year because we’re dialing in for the championship season and travel takes its toll, so we’re glad to be back.”
Slight Shift In Traditional Shamrock Schedule
As opposed to the established schedule of one session Friday night, two sessions Saturday version of the Shamrock Invitational, the 2018 edition of the meet will feature 10 a.m. (ET) and 5 p.m. start times on opening day. The final six events will be held on Saturday, beginning approximately at 11:30 a.m.
“This will in many ways duplicate a championship-level meet, back-to-back sessions in one day, and the quality of teams coming in are outstanding,” Litzinger said. “This weekend people are preparing differently, some are teams are trying to make an NCAA qualifying time and others are using this to point toward the conference championship. For us it’s a matter of getting up and racing against great competition. Last year 19 pool records were broken at this meet, so I am fully expecting another great performance and to be changing some records in Rolfs Aquatic Center after this weekend.”
Familiar Faces Await The Irish At The Shamrock
Notre Dame has already previously matched up with Iowa during a dual meet with both the Hawkeyes and Illinois on Jan. 12-13 in Iowa City, and raced against Ohio State during the Nov. 17-19 invitational meet in Columbus. These earlier matchups have given the Irish a level of familiarity with regard to this weekend’s strong competition.
“In a dual meet your teammates have your back, it’s one-on-one and the scoring is different, while with this meet we have seeded it where the last heat is going to be everyone’s top performers,” Litzinger said. “As the heats roll through each event, the last heat will be the one that is going to be held at a high level of competition. Our field of teams, with the exception of Missouri State, are all regional and are able to travel here pretty quickly, and we are all virtually at the same level. All teams traveling here are ranked anywhere from 12th to 20th across the board, so it’s a really good matchup of groups.”
Final 2017-18 Dual Meet Against Ball State And Green Bay Next Week
Notre Dame caps its regular-season schedule at home with a tri-dual meet against Ball State and Green Bay on Feb. 3 at 1 p.m. (ET) at the Rolfs Aquatic Center.
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.