Feb. 1, 2016

By: Melissa Riordan (`18)

Senior Catherine Galletti is no stranger to adversity. Her career for the University of Notre Dame women’s swim team has been marked by constant change, from the coaching staff to her personal health. Despite such challenges, Galletti has consistently risen above, establishing herself as a true leader on the team.

Galletti, who specializes in backstroke, freestyle, and butterfly, arrived at Notre Dame and immediately saw success as a member of the Fighting Irish program. She competed in the NCAA Championships in 2013, a goal that most swimmers merely dream of accomplishing.

After such a strong start to her collegiate campaign, Galletti was hopeful for a bright future. Her plans were met with a difficult road block when she tore the labrum in her left hip during her sophomore season. A successful surgery repaired the tear, but as Galletti began the rehabilitation process, she tore the labrum in her right hip and underwent a second surgery.

“When Cat came in here, she was obviously a very accomplished swimmer, and nothing has changed from her freshman year to now,” team administrator Jen Vining-Smith says. “She is very dedicated, she is very strong; she is a workhorse.

“She has battled some injuries unfortunately in her last couple of years, but when she is healthy, she is amazing,” Vining-Smith says. “With the adversity with her hips and the surgeries that she has had, what she is able to do in the water is remarkable.”

Throughout the physical injuries that Galletti has endured, the team has also seen tumultuous times.

In 2014 at the beginning of Galletti’s junior season, head coach Brian Barnes left the program. Retired Fighting Irish men’s swimming coach Tim Welsh returned to serve as the interim head coach for the remainder of that season. In spring of 2015, Mike Litzinger was hired as the new full time head coach for the women’s program.

As Galletti looks back on these few years, she attributes her teammates with being her sense of normalcy.

“It’s been pretty crazy with a lot of different coaches and a lot of adjustment, because each coach has a different style and way of going about business,” Galletti says. “It’s been a challenge to keep up with that, but it’s also brought the team closer together. With all that change going on, my teammates were the one thing that we all depended on.”

Galletti is one of few swimmers to witness all of the changes, so she has become one of the team’s most dedicated leaders.

“Cat has emerged as a team leader because of her experience, and her desire to guide the team in a positive direction after the coaching changes that have occurred throughout her tenure on the team,” Coach Litzinger says.

Her motivation to overcome each challenge stems from her desire to be a dependable force for the team and the University.

“It was definitely tough to stay motivated, but I swim not just for myself; I swim for the University and for my teammates,” Galletti says. “Every time I’m in a hard set during practice or I step up on the blocks to race, I know I am representing the University and my teammates, so whether it’s an individual race or a relay, just knowing there were people counting on me, people who looked up to me and saw what I was doing helped me to push through it.”

Galletti’s storied tenure with Notre Dame is on trend to end on a positive note. She and her teammates are currently preparing for the ACC Championship and trying to qualify for the NCAA Championship. Galletti and her relay teammates took yet another upward step this weekend, when they broke the pool record in the 400 free relay – a record that stood since her freshman year.

She can qualify for NCAAs individually and as a member of a relay team. In her 2013 appearance at the Championship, she competed in the 400 medley relay, the 200 medley relay and the 400 free relay.

“Cat has the potential to be an individual qualifier for the NCAA Championships,” Litzinger says. “She certainly is one of the top butterfly swimmers in the ACC, and she is key on our relays.”

In addition to Galletti’s promising future, the team is now in a stable position. The coaching staff is concrete, and both the staff and the swimmers predict great things for the team in the coming years.

“Coach Mike has been awesome and he’s really enforced a fighting mentality in us all, and we’re all really, really excited for ACCs,” Galletti says. “This team in the next four years is going to be ten times better than it is right now with the talent we have coming in, the high level competition, the high level training, and it’s awesome to see that already starting now. I hope to be the beginning stepping stone to that.”

Although Galletti’s collegiate career is nearing its end, her legacy amongst the Irish will be evident in the coming seasons.

“We have got a really good group of freshmen right now, and they see how hard Cat works and the things she’s gone through and what she’s put into the program,” Vining-Smith says. “There is something to be said about them being able to look up to that and to the other leaders on the team. That is what you want, to pass on the torch and for the next group to do what you have done. I think Cat has left that mark.”