Feb. 19, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving team will travel to the Nassau County Aquatic Center in East Meadow, N.Y., for the 2008 BIG EAST Conference Swimming and Diving Championships held Feb. 20-23. The four-day meet marks the conference’s 28th year for hosting the event.
Notre Dame, who finished last year’s championships only 4.5 points behind the West Virginia, looks to swim towards its third title in four years. Freshman Mike Sullivan enters with the top time in the 200 Back (1:48.80), while junior diver Michael Bulfin – who has never won an individual conference title – holds the third-best score off the 1-meter board (361.65) and the second-best in the 3-meter event (393.37).
“I think this might be the most wide-open men’s meet in several years,” said Irish head coach Tim Welsh. “Five teams have at least one top seed in the meet, so it will be a show from the beginning. We’ll be swimming in a fast pool, one in which we’ve competed for several years now. That water is fast. And we’re certainly counting on our divers to step up and do a significant job.”
Each of this week’s eight sessions can be viewed live and on-demand at BIGEAST.tv. Preliminary and final results along with daily recaps will be available at UND.com.
After competing for 25 years as an independent, Notre Dame joined the Midwestern Collegiate Conference in 1983-84, beginning a 12-year membership through which the Irish would win six league championships (1986, 1988-92) finished runner-up on four occasions (1984-85, 1993-94). Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST Conference prior to the 1995-96 season and has been a member since then.
The Irish have registered 10 consecutive top-four finishes in the BIG EAST Championships. In 2005, Notre Dame registered a meet-record 902.5 points to capture the program’s first-ever BIG EAST title. It was then that the Fighting Irish defeated Pittsburgh, the eight-time defending conference champions, by 275 points. Notre Dame defended its title in 2006 by registering 809 points to top runner-up Pittsburgh and the rest of the field. The Irish were edged out by West Virginia (765.5-761) in their bid for a third consecutive title in 2007.
Notre Dame has won 15 event titles at the BIG EAST meet, with five of those occurring at the 2005 championships and four more in 2006. Tim Kegelman became the first Irish swimmer to win three BIG EAST titles. Kegelman collected all three titles at the 2005 meet by winning the 100 Fly, 200 Individual Medley and was part of the champion 400 Medley Relay.
Ray Fitzpatrick – who was first in the 200 Free in 2000 after anchoring the champion 400 Free Relay in 1999 – was the first Irish student-athlete to win multiple BIG EAST championships. In 2006, Jay Vanden Berg became the second competitor in program history to capture multiple titles in the same meet as he won both the 500 and 1,650 Free events. Vanden Berg also won the 1,650 Free in 2005 and is tied with Kegelman for the program record of three event titles.
The top three finishers in each event gain all-BIG EAST honors, and 42 Notre Dame competitors – including nine on the 2007-08 roster – have achieved that status.
Kegelman leads the Irish with 12 all-conference honors, while three Irish athletes have garnered six individual all-BIG EAST accolades (Scott Zumbach, Ted Brown, Jay Vanden Berg). Notre Dame’s top diver in the BIG EAST Championships has been Andy Maggio (2003), who garnered all-BIG EAST accolades three times.