Dec. 5, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – With the first half of the season nearly at its end, the University of Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving team has reached the seminal event of its 2013 fall schedule this weekend at the Iowa Hawkeye Invitational in Iowa City, Iowa.
The Irish will take part in the event for the fourth consecutive season, and are coming off a runner-up finish at the 2012 invitational after scoring 794 points.
“It is the focal meet of the fall semester, and there are a few reasons for that,” Notre Dame head coach Tim Welsh said. “One is simply because it is last, but in a larger sense, all of the events in a championship meet are here. They are in the same championship trials to finals format, so we will swim the preliminary races to qualify in the morning and come back for the finals at night. We haven’t done that yet this season.
“The second thing is that each swimmer on the team can race at least four times, mostly in his primary events,” he added. “So we are looking at primary events for every person in a championship format, that’s an important meet. We have put a focal point on this meet from the very beginning, and we have been polishing it up as we have gotten closer to the weekend. We are very excited and ready to go.”
The Irish are one of four teams in the Hawkeye Invitational field, joining host No. 23 Iowa, Denver and Milwaukee. The three-day invitational will feature the same core events as a standard dual meet, but with the unique feature of the championship schedule. Welsh said that while the format is familiar even to the underclassmen on the roster, the experience would be invaluable on the march toward championship season.
“All of the swimmers are used to a trials/finals format, they have all been doing that for quite a while,” he said. “For our younger swimmers to see the events in their NCAA order, which will also be the ACC Championship order for the individual events, that is great practice. This year, the University of Michigan is not going to the invitational, so we think it will be much more mano-a-mano with Notre Dame and Iowa, and that’s good for us.”
The eventual 2013 NCAA champion Michigan outpaced the field with 1,150 points to claim last year’s Hawkeye Invitational, with Notre Dame and Iowa rounding out the top-three finishers. Even with the Wolverines not taking part in the event this season, seemingly setting the stage for the Irish and Hawkeyes to square off, Notre Dame is not losing sight of any of its opponents this weekend.
“It’s always a mistake to eliminate teams from your consideration,” Welsh said. “This is a meet where it’s about going fast, especially in the preliminary events where we are trying to qualify for spots in the finals. We want to go faster than we have all year, and if other teams are faster than that, congratulations, and if they are not that fast so it goes. We want to go as fast as we can in the morning and come back and do it again at night.
“It takes some toughness to do that over six sessions, and toughness is something that we like,” he said. “One of the things that will help us is if you look at our dual meet record, it’s not glistening at 4-4, but those losses were all to top 20 teams. We are competing at the level that we truly want to compete at.”
Welsh added that the near three-week team competitive layoff since Notre Dame hosted Wisconsin on Nov. 16 at Rolfs Aquatic Center was refreshing for the Irish, and allowed everyone to re-focus on season-long goals. The simplest of past times during the break were the key to the recharging process.
“It has been a big help to us, and the Thanksgiving week in particular, one of the secrets ingredients to our preparation is we sleep four or five days in a row,” Welsh said with a smile. “You get that much sleep over those many days, and have the guys well-fed, good things tend to happen.”
Entering the final competition of the fall, Irish team members have collectively improved times in each event during the first six dual meets of the season. The ability for each athlete to improve in specific facets of racing has impressed Welsh during the year’s opening half.
“We became better at racing side-by-side, so the d-u-e-l part of the d-u-a-l meets got better, and especially in our last meet against Wisconsin,” Welsh said. “The side-by-side racing was superb. When it comes right down to the final crunch, it’s you and the guy next to you, and one of you wins the race. Getting tougher in that kind of racing is good for us.”
— Tony Jones, Media Relations Assistant