Men's senior swimmer Michael Sullivan

BIG EAST Championship Goes Down To Wire, Irish Stage Relay Upset To Win Title

Feb. 21, 2009

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – In a championship meet that came down to the final relay, the Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving team came through with one of the most dramatic performances in program history to earn its second consecutive BIG EAST Conference title.

With the luck of the Irish and plenty of heart and gut, John Lytle, Danny Lutkus, Joshua Nosal and Andrew Hoffman overcame the odds to down the top-seeded Louisville 400 Free Relay team to score enough points for the team title.

Notre Dame entered the final race as the second seed while holding a slight advantage over Louisville in the point standings, and was a seven second underdog to the relay squad of the top-ranked Cardinals.

Lytle came from behind in the first leg to give the Irish a lead they would not relinquish, while Lutkus and Nosal maintained the margin to put the icing on the cake as Hoffman added a cherry to the top.

“I hardly know what to say … congratulations to every team that swam in the championships,” Irish head coach Tim Welsh said. “What is so important about our guys is how much more unified the team became this week. The championship came down to one race, and that time was five seconds faster than last year’s time with the same guys. I am so proud of our guys, our team and our program.

“We told the guys before the meet that it might come down to the last race, and if we were victorious, we would win. Our guys knew all along it might come to this and they were prepared for it. All I knew is that the guys were going to give it everything they had and we knew we would race well. The seniors and the upperclassmen will remember this forever. We have been getting e-mails and calls from former players supporting us and it feels great to win the championship.”

Louisville, who defeated Notre Dame in a dual meet earlier this season by a 178-117 margin, finished second in the standings with 773 points, giving the Irish the title by just a 9.5-point margin. Pittsburgh rounded out the top three with 442.5 points.

Lytle, Michael Sullivan and MacKenzie LeBlanc set school records in their respective individual events and the 400 Free Relay team cemented a new Irish record.

1,650 Free: Steven Brus and Andrew Deters were neck-and-neck for the first 1,000 yards when Deters made his move … he went on to win the title with a season-best 15:26.43 … Ryan Belecanech (15:34.84) was third and Brus finished in 15:48.14.

200 Back: Sullivan (1:46.07) was a nail off the school record (1:46.06) to earn the top seed in the preliminary heat … Nosal (1:46.88) and Jeff Wood (1:48.08) also fit themselves into a seat for the finals … Christopher Wills went 1:47.10 to finish second in the consolations … Sullivan (1:45.10) rallied late in the finals to place second and establish a school record … Nosal (1:47.40) was fifth overall.

100 Free: Adding to his ever-extending resume was Lytle with a 43.48 and school record in the prelims … Lytle earned the second seed for the finals and Hoffman gunned his way to a 44.29, the sixth-fastest time overall on the morning … Lutkus (44.76) came up big by willing himself into the finals … Lytle (43.46) broke his own record in the finals with a second-place finish … Hoffman (44.23) was fifth and Lutkus (44.90) was eighth.

200 Breast: Joseph Raycroft went a season-best 2:02.66 but Daniel Rave bettered his teammate with a 2:00.96 in the prelims … Raycroft went 2:01.79 in the consolation finals to place second … Rave was eighth in the finals at 2:01.29.

200 Fly: Patrick Augustyn (1:47.99) forced his way into third during his preliminary race and Colin Francesco (1:55.56) was seventh … one heat later, LeBlanc came from behind to touch in a season-best and NCAA B-cut time of 1:46.53 and Christopher Wills went 1:50.72 … Augustyn (1:48.76) was fourth in the consolation heat … LeBlanc finished the course in 1:45.06 to rack a fourth-place finish in the finals … in doing so, he set a school record while posting the program’s top time ever at a BIG EAST meet.

400 Free Relay: One of the most memorable races in Notre Dame and BIG EAST history was quite a spectacle for the raucous crowd … Lytle gave Notre Dame the lead after the first leg … Lutkus exploded off the block and extended the lead over Louisville which was maintained for Nosal, who handed it off to Hoffman … the race came down to the final turn and length with Hoffman holding off a charging Louisville swimmer to inch ahead of the second-place Cardinals (2:54.40) … the school and league record went down in 2:54.08.