Oct. 1, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Sophomore Katie Carroll (Toledo, Ohio/Notre Dame Academy) delivered a remarkable performance in the first event of the 2004-05 season and an Irish team set a meet record in the 800-yard freestyle relay, as the Notre Dame women’s swimming and diving team (1-0) dominated Evansville (161-54) and went on to take first place in the Dennis Stark Relays. Only once in the dual meet did any Purple Ace swimmer touch the wall ahead of a Notre Dame student-athlete, and 26 of the 36 competitors on the Irish roster registered at least one victory on Friday in the Rolfs Aquatic Center.
Carroll, the ’04 BIG EAST Championships Most Outstanding Swimmer and a two-time honorable mention All-American, wasted no time in establishing herself once again as one of the nation’s best in the 400-yard individual medley. In the first race of the season – facing only her teammates in an exhibition heat – she dove in and finished in a time of 4:22.93, which is good enough for an NCAA “B” cut, meaning that performance alone has earned her consideration for a bid to next spring’s NCAA Championships, an incredible feat at this point in the season when swimmers are training harder than ever and not shaving or resting at all for meets. That time, which is more than eight seconds off Carroll’s school-record mark that allowed her to finish ninth at last year’s national championships, would have been good enough for third place at the 2004 BIG EAST meet. She came back later in the Evansville meet to win the 200 butterfly in a time of 2:05.19.
That initial performance served as a catalyst for the Irish to get off to a fast start. Notre Dame registered 1-2-3-4 finishes against Evansville in each of the first six events, opening up a 96-18 advantage before beginning to mark some competitors as exhibition swimmers. At the end of the meet, the Irish had 248 points, while Illinois State took second in the eight-team field with 164.
Friday saw just one meet record set in the Dennis Stark Relays. In the 800 free relay, sophomores Ellen Johnson (Toledo, Ohio/Notre Dame Academy) and Ann Barton (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain H.S.), junior Christel Bouvron (Singapore, Singapore/Reffles Girls’ Secondary School), and freshman Laura Stafford (Georgetown, Grand Cayman/Cayman Prep & H.S.) posted a time of 7:51.84, breaking the mark of 7:53.38 set last year by an Irish quartet that also was led off by Johnson. The Irish team beat the rest of the field by 12 seconds in the race.
Notre Dame’s diving squad again appears poised to be a force this season, as fifth-year senior Meghan Perry-Eaton (Brandon, Fla./Bloomingdale H.S.) – who finished third at last year’s NCAA meet in the one-meter competition – swept the diving events in the dual meet and a pair of rookies did the same in the relay meet. Laura Rings (Gahanna, Ohio/Columbus School for Girls) and Tara Hyer (Tampa, Fla./Academy of the Holy Names) – who debuted in the pool in which her brother Sean (a 1994 Notre Dame graduate) still holds the men’s record for three-meter diving in a championship meet – teamed up to win both the three-meter synchronized diving competition and the one-meter diving relay event in the evening. The duo had a score of 181.75 off the higher board before posting a 243.30 (nearly 20 points better than second place) in the relay (in which both competitors takes three dives and combines their scores). Rings and Hyer both took second and third behind Perry-Eaton in the dual-meet competition, with the former posting a higher score off the three-meter board.
The Irish senior began her season where she left off in 2003-04, as her scores of 305.48 in three-meter competition and 276.45 off the lower springboard were good enough for victories. Last season, Perry-Eaton was defeated only one time prior to the NCAA zone meet.
Joining Perry-Eaton as a two-time winner against Evansville was Johnson, who won the first official race of the night, the 200-yard freestyle (1:53.85), and then came back to take the 200 backstroke (2:05.62), as well. In addition to leading off the recordbreaking relay at night, Johnson also teamed with freshman Caroline Johnson (Springfield, Mo./Glendale H.S.), Carroll, and sophomore Meghan Linnelli (Canfield, Ohio/Canfield H.S.) to win the 400 free relay in a time of 3:38.22. Ellen Johnson’s four victories were unmatched by any other student-athlete who competed in the Rolfs Aquatic Center on Friday.
Caroline Johnson joined Kelly Battle (Allison Park, Pa./North Allegheny H.S.) as rookies who claimed individual event titles in their first collegiate dual meets. Johnson took first in the 100 freestyle with a time of 53.19, while Battle was credited with first place in the 500 free (though two exhibition Irish swimmers had quicker times) with a time of 5:23.46.
Johnson ended up with three wins on the day, as she followed classmate Noemie Brand (Point-Claire, Quebec/Phillips Exeter Academy [NH]) into the pool and combined with Stafford and senior Kristen Peterson (Wichita, Kan./Bishop Carroll H.S.) to win the 400 backstroke relay by nearly 13 seconds with a time of 3:57.97.
Battle had a win in the 400 individual medley relay. Carroll led off that group, which was completed by sophomore Jessica Stephens (Bloomsburg, Pa./Bloomsburg H.S.), Battle, and junior Courtney Choura (Bridgeville, Pa./Oakland Catholic H.S.). That quartet outdistanced the field by just under 12 seconds, ending in a time of 4:03.87 in the race that requires each leg to swim a 100-yard IM.
Stephens was a three-time winner, as she first claimed the 200 IM title in the dual meet with a time of 2:05.82 and then joined with Peterson, freshman Natalie Burke (Cape Town, South Africa/Reddam House College), and sophomore Rebecca Grove (Yorktown Heights, N.Y./Yorktown H.S.) to win the 200 medley relay, which also counted in the dual-meet scoring, in a time of 1:50.79.
Grove and senior Katie Eckholt (Omaha, Neb./Marian H.S.) tied for first place in the 50 freestyle against the Purple Aces with identical times of 24.79, while Burke, who will take part in the World Short-Course Championships next week, was the only female swimmer in the meet to be on three winning relays. She was part of Notre Dame’s first victory of the Dennis Stark Relays (following the Irish losing the initial event of the meet by .01 seconds), as she followed Grove into the pool and then watched as sophomore Kiley Gooch (Carmel, Ind./Carmel H.S.) and freshman Raine Paulson-Andrews (Montego Bay, Jamaica/Gulliver Prep School [FL]) brought home the victory in the 400 medley relay with a mark of 4:01.42. Burke then led off the 400 breaststroke relay, which turned out to be the most lopsided race of the night. She, Gooch, senior co-captain Georgia Healey (New York, N.Y./Trinity School), and Choura won by nearly 20 seconds, ending up with a time of 4:36.00.
The other individual winner in the dual meet was Healey, who earned first-place points in the 200 breaststroke with a time of 2:25.28. Burke had the best mark in that event, though she was swimming as an exhibition competitor. Her time of 2:22.71 would have been good enough for 13th place at last spring’s BIG EAST Championships.
Notre Dame was victorious in the 500-yard cresendo relay, which sees five legs swim 50, 100, 200, 100, and 50 yards, respectively. Paulson-Andrews led off that quintet, which was completed by sophomore Krissy Archer (Chesapeake, Va./Hickory H.S.), rookie Morgan Bullock (Stamford, Conn./Westhill H.S.), sophomore Grace Galagan (Albuquerque, N.M./Albuquerque Academy), and freshman Katie Guida (Alexandria, Va./Georgetown Visitation Prep School). The team finished with a time of 4:40.58.
Sophomore Abby Strang (St. Simons Island, Ga./The Bolles School) and Bouvron won the 1,000-yard freestyle relay in which each swimmer covers half the distance. The pair had a time of 10:33.86.
Notre Dame also began its quest for a ninth consecutive BIG EAST Conference title on Friday, as 17 of its student-athletes posted automatic qualifying times for the league championships on the opening day of competition. Leading the way were Perry-Eaton (1-meter, 3-meter), Carroll (400 IM, 200 fly), Ellen Johnson (200 free, 200 back), and Burke (100 breast, 200 breast), who qualified in two events each, while others who can already plan on being in East Meadow, N.Y., from Feb. 17-19 are Hyer (1-meter diving), senior Brooke Taylor (Orlando, Fla./Lake Highlands Preparatory School) (400 IM), senior co-captain Kelli Barton (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral H.S.) (400 IM), Battle (400 IM), Stephens (200 IM), Gooch (200 IM), Caroline Johnson (100 free), Peterson (200 back), Brand (200 back), Ann Barton (200 back), Healey (200 breast), Hopkins (200 breast), and Strang (500 free). In addition, six other Irish competitors notched BIG EAST “B” times.
It will be nearly a month before the Irish jump back into the pool for another competitive meet, as they return to action on Oct. 29 for a dual meet against both Purdue and Arizona State in West Lafayette, Ind., at 6 p.m. (EST).