Oct. 10, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Just two days after the meet’s namesake turned 90 years old, the University of Notre Dame men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs get their 2013-14 season underway at 5 p.m. Friday at Rolfs Aquatic Center with the 49th annual Dennis Stark Relays. The relays, which were started by former head coach Dennis Stark in 1964 as a men’s competition known as the Notre Dame Relays, branched out to include a women’s meet in 1983.
The Irish will see plenty of strong competition at the season-opening meet, as both squads will battle Auburn, Cleveland State and Valparaiso, while the men’s team will compete against defending NCAA champion Michigan and the women’s squad will face off with Indiana and Illinois State.
At last year’s NCAA meet, the Indiana women took 11th, the Auburn women placed 13th and the Irish women claimed a program-best 16th. On the men’s side, Michigan took first and Auburn placed eighth.
“The Stark Relays are very special to this program,” said women’s head coach Brian Barnes. “This meet is all about honoring Dennis, and everything he has done for swimming and diving within this program and community. The night is fun for everyone involved as we get to compete in some unique relays that offer fans a chance to see some events they normally wouldn’t get to watch at a meet.”
“Our schedule, if you look at it, is clustered around a few significant weekends,” said men’s head coach Tim Welsh. “There are weekend clusters here and there where we want to be fast, but we also want to look at meet’s end with no filters to say, ‘this is where we are.’ In some years the Dennis Stark Relays have been more or less a scrimmage, but this year we’ve stacked it.”
A day later at 11 a.m. Saturday, the women will dual against Auburn and Indiana, while the men will compete against Auburn and Michigan. Fans that can’t make the meet can watch Saturday’s competition live on WatchND.tv. Sophomore Rich Hidy and graduate student Andrew Bartolini will be on the call. Live stats will be available for both days of competition.
“We have big-time competition all weekend, which makes it fun for our team,” said Barnes. “What I like about these two meets is we will be challenged with tough competition, which allows us to see exactly where we are at the end of the weekend.”
“We want to know where we are at the beginning of the season, and this weekend will tell us,” said Welsh. “For our approach, if we are going to raise the profile of our team nationally, we have to compete at a higher level nationally. We will learn a lot from it, we want to be tough enough and competitive enough throughout the season.”
Dennis Stark Relays Information
The meet is made up of only relays with some traditional events like the 200-yard free relay being complimented with nontraditional races like the 300-yard fly relay and the 300-yard back relay. On the diving side, two divers will pair up for the 1-meter relay and the 3-meter synchronized relay.
Beginning in 1964 and taking place in each of the subsequent 49 seasons since, Notre Dame’s swimmers and divers have christened each competitive season with the Notre Dame Relays (now Dennis Stark Relays). Stark has participated in some capacity in all but one Notre Dame Relay, with the meet officially becoming the Dennis Stark Relays on Nov. 22, 2003.
Stark was the first coach of both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams at Notre Dame and coached for 27 years before moving into an administrative position as director of the Rolfs Aquatic Center in 1985.
A 1947 graduate of Notre Dame, Stark was the head coach of the Irish men’s program from 1958-85 and ended his career with a record of 174-135-1, including an 11-1 mark in 1974-75. Stark, whose student-athletes included Notre Dame’s first-ever NCAA qualifiers and six All-Americans, also headed the women’s program from 1981-85, compiling a 31-14 dual-meet record during his tenure. He was the 1984 women’s coach of the year in the North Star Conference.
Stark was heavily involved in the Special Olympics program in the Northern Indiana area through the years. He was the aquatics venue manager for the 1987 International Summer Olympics held in South Bend and was honored by Special Olympics advocate Eunice Kennedy Shriver for his outstanding work. Stark’s son, Kenny, was a Special Olympian and passed away Jan. 2, 2011.
Stark has also been honored by the Notre Dame National Monogram Club, received the Moose Krause Award in 2010, earned the Harvey G. Foster Award from the Notre Dame Alumni Association and was recently presented the Russ Oliver Award that honored his high ideals, dedication and service to youth athletics by the St. Joseph Valley Officials Association. The St. Joseph Valley Officials Association also awarded Stark with its Zebra Award in 2007.
A native of Detroit, Mich., Stark and his wife, Angelina, who passed away Oct. 26, 2003, had five children together, three of which are Notre Dame graduates.
Dennis Stark Relay Schedule of Events
200-yard Free Relay
400-yard Medley Relay
800-yard Free Relay
400-yard Individual Medley Relay
300-yard Fly Relay
300-yard Back Relay
300-yard Breast Relay
1,000-yard Free Relay
200-yard Medley Relay
400-yard Free Relay
1-meter Diving Relay
3-meter Synchronized Diving Relay
Saturday’s Schedule of Events
200-yard Medley Relay
200-yard Individual Medley
400-yard Freestyle Relay
— Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director