Nov. 12, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Sophomore Tim Kegelman (Yorktown, Va./Tabb H.S.) touched the wall .04 seconds ahead of Darryl Washington in the meet’s final event to hand the Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving team (5-1) the biggest win in the 47-year history of the program, as the Irish upset eight-time defending BIG EAST champion and 17th-ranked Pittsburgh (3-1) 155-145 Friday in the Rolfs Aquatic Center. The win was the first-ever for Notre Dame – which also beat Michigan State 213-87 in the triangular meet – against a nationally-ranked opponent, and it snapped the Panthers’ 26-meet winning streak against conference foes.
With the Irish leading 142-141, the meet came down to simply who would win the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay. Notre Dame’s team of senior Frank Krakowski (Erie, Pa./Cathedral Prep School) and sophomores Louis Cavadini (South Bend, Ind./Riley H.S.), Nick Fanslau (Lansdale, Pa./North Penn H.S.), and Kegelman – which was making its competitive debut as a quartet – came through, taking first in a time of 3:04.13, while the Panthers’ relay came in just behind at 3:04.17.
Krakowski went out quickly against Pittsburgh junior Eric Bugby, taking an advantage of .39 seconds after the first 50 yards. But Bugby, an 11-time all-BIG EAST honoree, made up ground in the second half of his swim and actually touched the wall .02 seconds ahead of Krakowski. Cavadini turned that slight disadvantage into a .30-second lead over Thomas Bird in his first 50, before extending that slightly in the second portion of his swim, giving Fanslau a .35-second cushion at the halfway mark. That small lead disappeared in his first 50, as Jeff Leath pulled to within a virtual tie at the 250-yard mark. But Fanslau then delivered what proved to be the decisive 50, pulling ahead by 1.12 seconds by the end of his swim. Kegelman had the task of holding off a charging Washington, who took a big chunk out of Notre Dame’s lead immediately. With 50 yards to go, the Irish sophomore was up by .48 seconds. The eight-time all-league honoree kept charging, though, and got into a virtual tie in the last 10 yards, but Kegelman’s fingers would reach the touchpad just before his.
Coming into this weekend, just 13 Division I schools had fielded relays that had gone quicker than Notre Dame’s match-clinching one did.
It was a matchup of the top two finishers at last season’s BIG EAST Championships, and the final race capped off a meet in which neither team was able to build a lead of more than 15 points at any time.
“This is what collegiate swimming is supposed to be like,” said Irish head coach Tim Welsh of the meet. “It was side-by-side the whole time, with every race close. There was a great crowd, and a lot of great finishes.”
The victory was the first for Notre Dame against its conference rival since Feb. 27, 1960, when the Irish beat the Panthers 66-29 in the Rockne Memorial Pool in just the second year of Notre Dame’s varsity program. Pittsburgh had won all seven subsequent contests in dual meets, including a 228-123 decision last season. The Panthers, who have won every league title since 1997 and 19 of 25 overall, had not lost to a BIG EAST team in dual-meet action since Oct. 31, 1998, against Syracuse.
The win completed an arc that has seen the Irish become competitive with some of the top programs in the country. Prior to last season, Notre Dame had never held a lead – at any point – in a dual meet against a nationally-ranked foe. The Irish held early advantages against #19 Brigham Young in the fall and then were up with just a few races to go at #15 Northwestern in January before losing by 21. Last month, Notre Dame came into the final relay tied 144-144 with #22 BYU in the Cougars’ home pool, but Brigham Young prevailed. This time, the Irish finally delivered their first-ever ranked triumph.
“This was an incredible win for this program,” said Irish head coach Tim Welsh. “Our approach to this meet was always that we wanted to do the little things right. We wanted to stay focused and stay intense, and then good things would happen to us at the end.”
Notre Dame was victorious in seven events, and once again, it was the freestyle strength that led the Irish. Notre Dame held a 78-34 edge in the six freestyle races.
Sophomore Ted Brown (Kokomo, Ind./Western H.S.), who has now won nine races in five dual meets, led that effort by winning both the 200 and 500 freestyle. His first victory came in a time of 1:40.45 that is tops in the BIG EAST this fall and ranks him 36th in Division I this season in the event. Brown’s 500 victory came exactly when Notre Dame needed it. Pittsburgh had gained ground on Notre Dame in four consecutive events and taken a seven-point lead before the 500. But Brown, junior Patrick Davis (Clearwater, Fla./Jesuit H.S.), and freshman Jay Vanden Berg (Holland, Mich./Southfield Christian School) put the Irish back ahead by going 1-2-3 in the race, beating Pittsburgh’s top swimmer by nearly six seconds. Brown was first in a time of 4:34.77, while Davis went 4:37.85, and Vanden Berg came in at 4:38.04. Coming into the weekend, the top time among BIG EAST swimmers this season was 4:39.34.
Davis put Notre Dame ahead for the first time with a convincing victory in the 1,000 free. His time of 9:25.51 stands as the best unshaved time in school history and the fourth-quickest swim overall. Vanden Berg came in second in a time of 9:26.39, which is the sixth-fastest time in program history. Both of them defeated Pittsburgh’s Chris George, who was 10th at U.S. Olympic Trials in the 1,500 free last summer. Sophomore Chris Zeches (Tucson, Ariz./Salpointe Catholic H.S.) added to Notre Dame’s efforts by taking fourth in 9:35.73.
Cavadini turned in the second best time of his collegiate career in the 50 free – .01 behind his mark from last year’s BIG EAST meet – in taking first by outtouching Washington by .05 seconds with a 20.92. Krakowski came in third in 21.11. The two Irish sprinters went 2-3 in the 100 free, with Cavadini taking the runner-up spot with a time of 46.11 and the senior finishing in 46.54.
Kegelman’s decisive victory was not his first of the meet, as he won the 100 butterfly in a time of 49.17 that ranks as the best unshaved time in Irish history and tied for eighth-quickest overall. Heading into the weekend, only nine swimmers in Division I had registered quicker 100-fly times this season. Cavadini ended up third in the race in 50.53. Kegelman also was second in the 200 fly, ending in a time of 1:52.59, while junior Patrick Heffernan (Norcross, Ga./Norcross H.S.) took third in 1:53.92.
Junior Doug Bauman (Erie, Pa./Cathedral Prep School) also claimed a victory, winning the 100 backstroke by .02 seconds over Bird with a time of 51.08. He could not repeat in the 200 back, but Bauman was second with a time of 1:50.85, while sophomore Brian Freeman (Sanger, Calif./Immanuel H.S.) was right behind in 1:52.71, and junior Steve Shomberger (Spotsylvania, Pa./Courtland H.S.) took fourth (1:53.69).
Notre Dame held a 133-131 advantage with two events to go, and a solid finish in the 200 IM put the fate of the meet in the hands of the 400 free relay. Freshman Andrew MacKay (Georgetown, Grand Cayman/Cayman Prep and H.S.) ended up second with a time of 1:53.05, while Brown was third in 1:53.55.
The first race of the meet saw Michigan State set a Rolfs Aquatic Center record, as Lucas Lehner, Alex Neinberg, James Steele, and David Lessard finished the 200 medley relay in 1:31.56, which was .01 seconds quicker than the previous mark, set by Iowa last season. The Irish quartet of Bauman, junior Tim Randolph (Crown Point, Ind./Merrillville H.S.), Kegelman, and Krakowski took third in a time of 1:32.56.
Randolph was Notre Dame’s top finisher in the 100 breaststroke, at 57.68, while junior Tyler Grenda (Hockessin, Del./Salesianum H.S.) led the Irish in the 200 breast, with a third-place time of 2:06.98. Senior David Moisan (Fisherville, Ky./Louisville Male H.S.) was right behind in 2:07.74.
Pittsburgh, a traditional diving power, gained ground in springboard action. Sophomore Scott Coyle (Indianapolis, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern H.S.) was Notre Dame’s top finisher, taking fourth off the three-meter board (278.75) and fifth in the one-meter competition (257.60). Freshman Sam Stoner (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso H.S.) was best on the lower board, with a score of 263.55 that was good enough for fourth.
Notre Dame stands 5-1 on the season, with wins against Evansville, Utah, Iowa, Michigan State, and the 17th-ranked Panthers, and just the loss to #22 BYU. The Irish figure to be ranked in the next College Swim Coaches Association (CSCAA) Dual-Meet Rankings, scheduled to be released on Thursday. Notre Dame had never received votes in the poll before this season, but they were the first team unranked (listed 26th) in the preseason poll last month, and they are currently listed 29th.
The Irish will return to action next weekend, swimming at Louisville on Friday and Saturday in a three-session, championship-style meet. Action will begin at 5 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday.