Oct. 9, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving team stands ready and waiting to open the 2014-15 season with the 50th running of the Dennis Stark Relays. The meet, cohosted with the Irish women’s team, will start at 5 p.m. Friday at the Rolfs Aquatic Center.
“The relay meet is always a great way to start the season; it’s just the right amount of time into our training to gauge where the guys are,” men’s head coach Matt Tallman states. “It serves as a barometer of what we’re going to need to do in the following weeks before our dual meet season kicks off on November 1.
“Not only does it let us know what we need to focus on to get our guys ready in the season, but it’s always great to see Dennis (Stark) here – he gets to start the first couple races as the official starter for the first race of each gender. It’s a fun and competitive meet that we look forward to every year.”
The non-traditional meet will include standard relay events such as the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle relays, but also feature races such as the 300 butterfly, 300 backstroke and 300 breaststroke relays. Each first-place finish will earn a team 20 points, while runners-up earn 14 points and third-place finishers score 12 points for their team.
Graduating only four seniors last year, the Irish boast a varied roster heading into 2014-15, with 14 seniors – the largest class in program history – five juniors, seven sophomores and nine freshmen.
“For our 14 seniors, the Stark Relays are a special meet; they get to both start and finish their final season at home events. It’s the beginning of the end of their collegiate swimming careers, and to them, it’s a special event in that regard,” Tallman muses.
Leading the way for Notre Dame in 2014-15 are seniors Zach Stephens and John Williamson. Stephens had one of his best seasons with the Irish in 2013-14, winning two Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) titles in the 100 breast and 200 breast. He re-set the school record at the conference championship in three events (100 breast, 200 breast and 200 IM), while Williamson set a new school record in 200 fly at the same meet.
Both Stevens and Williamson were amongst the eight-man delegation that went to the NCAA Championships, in addition to sophomores Tom Anderson and Joe Coumos (the lone diver to qualify for the Irish), junior Matthew Buerger and senior Kevin Hughes. All will be key contributors for the Irish when the dual-meet season begins.
“The relay meet is exciting for our freshmen, because it’s their first meet representing Notre Dame – so usually we get some positive, excited results from that class,” Tallman says. “For the other classes, they know this is the start of the season, and it’s the beginning of a selection process towards the end of the year and the big meets (ACC Championships, NCAAs) that require the coaches to make some hard choices.”
The freshman class is the second largest in Tallman’s inaugural season at the helm of the Irish program, claiming eight swimmers and one diver.
Justin Plaschka arrived in South Bend the New York state record-holder in the 100 free and 200 IM, while fellow New Yorker Richard Mannix earned the title of Empire State record-holder as members of the 200 and 400 free relays. Similarly, Joseph Krause can claim Michigan’s state record in the 100 free as a member of his prep team’s 400 free relay team.
Admission to the meet is free. Fans who can’t cheer the Irish on in person can follow online through live stats and Meet Mobile, which will be up and running throughout the meet.
Friday’s Schedule of Events
200-Yard Free Relay
400-Yard Medley Relay
800-Yard Free Relay
400-Yard IM 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