Oct. 11, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – With its namesake in attendance serving in his role as honorary starter, the 49th annual Dennis Stark Relays was filled with a high caliber of collegiate men’s swimming talent. The University of Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving team welcomed defending NCAA champion Michigan, national top 10 squad Auburn, Cleveland State and Valparaiso Friday night for its season-opening meet at Rolfs Aquatic Center, with legendary Irish head coach Dennis Stark looking on poolside.
Stark, who celebrated his 90th birthday earlier in the week, was the head coach of the men’s program at Notre Dame from 1958-85, amassing a dual meet record of 174-135-1. Stark has now been on hand for 48 of the 49 editions of the former Notre Dame Relays since the event’s inception in 1964.
“Dennis loves being here, and it is a real tribute to him and his dedication to the sport that he is here every year,” Notre Dame head coach Tim Welsh said. “He even had his daughter with him this year. We just love having Dennis here.”
The Irish customarily use the relay meet as somewhat of an informal season introduction each year. But with the level of talent gathered for the 2013 edition at the event, Welsh and his team were prepared for a different type of competition this time around.
“This was the fastest running of the Dennis Stark Relays, ever,” Welsh said. “You can measure that by the number of meet records, by the number of first through fourth place finishes. For our guys it was a great start. We swam well, and I thought we raced well, with spirit and energy. I think we will be better Saturday than we were tonight, but a very solid first night.”
A total of eight meet records, including two pool marks, were broken by Michigan, as the defending national champion Wolverines appeared won the overall team title by scoring 190 points. The Irish hung tough with both Michigan and Auburn (186 points), earning four runner-up finishes and a total of 174 team points to finish behind the two powerhouse programs.
Notre Dame’s ability to flip on the competitive switch almost immediately, while staying completely loose during the course of racing, was an encouraging sight for Welsh and his coaching staff.
“What you saw, on both sides of the pool, the teams here had a good time,” Welsh said. “There was good energy, there was a lot of cheering, and it happened with both swimming and diving. I thought the teams involved had a great time, and it was a good meet.”
Notre Dame will continue its opening weekend when Michigan and Auburn return to the Rolfs Aquatic Center Saturday at 11 a.m. (ET) for a tri-dual meet with the Irish. Given the first glimpse that his team already has of its opposition, Welsh expects that the Notre Dame squad will be in prime position for another successful performance day.
“That’s what it says on the script, so we’ll see,” Welsh said. “The guys are ready for it, and that’s where their hearts are. We’ll come back early in the morning, do a ‘wakeup’ swim, have breakfast and be back to get ready for the meet, and we’ll see if we can get better.”
400 Yard Medley Relay: Michigan and Auburn started off the race with momentum, and were neck and neck until the third leg when Michigan’s Dylan Bosch started to pull ahead for the Wolverines. Notre Dame’s ‘A’ entry held onto to the third spot the entire race and finished in third after a strong freestyle leg from senior Colin Babcock. The final Irish time was 3:23.01. Auburn came in second with 3:19.08, and Michigan in first with a meet and pool record time of 3:15.11
800 Yard Freestyle Relay: Michigan jumped out early in lane three and never looked back. The Wolverines led the entire race comfortably, capped off with a strong final leg from Michael Wynalda, bringing in a time of 6:35.25 for Michigan. Auburn came in second with a time of 6:46.32 and the Notre Dame ‘A’ relay squad came in third after going heads-up with the Auburn B relay until freshman Kevin Bradley gained the lead halfway through the third leg. The Irish ‘A’ relay finished with a time of 6:52.80.
400 IM Relay: Going into the final lap, Auburn and Michigan traded first and second place. Michigan’s Kyle Whitaker pulled away for the Wolverines, but the Michigan relay was disqualified. As a result, Auburn finished first with a time of 3:26.76 and the Notre Dame ‘A’ relay finished second with a time of 3:30.72. The Irish ‘B’ relay came in sixth with a time of 3:42.47.
3×100 Butterfly Relay: Michigan’s Dylan Bosch came off the block fast for Michigan, who won with a new meet record time of 2:26.61. Notre Dame’s ‘A’ relay and Auburn battled through all three swimmers until senior Zach Stephens started to pull away and secure a second place finish for Notre Dame with a time of 2:29.44. Auburn finished shortly thereafter with a time of 2:30.75. Notre Dame’s ‘B’ relay finished sixth with a time of 2:38.29
3×100 Backstroke: All three of Auburn’s swimmers showed up ready for this race. After taking an early lead and not looking back, Auburn finished in first with a time of 2:27.09. Michigan came in second with a time of 2:28.58, and the Notre Dame A relay came in third with a time of 2:35.20. The Notre Dame B relay was fifth, finishing with a time of 2:40.28.
3×100 Breaststroke: The 3×100 Breaststroke was one of the closest races of the night until the third swimmers for Notre Dame ‘A’ squad, Michigan, and Auburn dove in. Richard Funk of Michigan came out flying as the third in the water and pulled Michigan ahead for the win with a time of 2:47.23. Notre Dame’s Patrick Olson also had a good third leg and closed out the race strong, earning the Irish a time of 2:50.58. Auburn finished in third with a time of 2:53.39, while the Notre Dame B relay finished in fifth with a time of 2:58.37.
2×500 Freestyle: In the longest race of the night, Michigan came out on top, finishing with a time of 9:05.49. In second was Auburn with a time of 9:11.31 and the Notre Dame ‘A’ relay finished fourth with a time of 9:29.94. The Irish ‘B’ relay was seventh with a time of 9:46.66.
2×100 Medley: In the closest race in the meet, Notre Dame ‘A’ relay and Michigan went into the final leg fighting for the first place finish, with Auburn right on their tails. Vinny Tafuto of the Wolverines pulled ahead in the fourth leg to capture the win for Michigan with a time of 1:29.33. The Notre Dame ‘A’ entry was right behind them in second place with a time of 1:29.91. In third was Auburn, coming in at 1:30.48. The Notre Dame ‘B’ squad was seventh with a time of 1:38.54.
2×200 Freestyle: The 2×200 freestyle relay was last swimming race of the night and it kept fans on the edge of their seats. Auburn and Michigan came out fast and alternated between first and second the entire race. Auburn had the lead going into the last 25 meters of the race until Michael Wynalda of Michigan stormed back to get the win for Michigan with a time of 2:58.25. Auburn finished in second with a time of 2:58.31, and the Notre Dame a relay finished fourth with a time of 3:06.85. The Notre Dame B relay came in seventh with a time of 3:11.86.
1-Meter Diving Relay: The Notre Dame team of Nick Nemetz and Joseph Coumos earned first place with a combined score of 658.75. Auburn’s John Santeiu and Andrew Laing were in second at 631.70, while Michigan’s James Ross and Kevin Bain rounded out the top three (540.50).
3-Meter Synchronized Diving Relay: Michigan’s Sainteu and Laing were victorious off the 3-meter board, combining for a score of 267.95. Nemetz and Michael Kreft took second place for the Irish with a score of 239.05, while Notre Dame’s James Lichtenstein and Ted Wagner were in third place with a total of 215.30.
FINAL Men’s Team Scores
1. Michigan – 190
2. Auburn – 186
3. Notre Dame – 174
4. Cleveland State – 120
5. Valparaiso – 82
— Tony Jones, Athletic Media Relations Assistant