March 2, 2017
By Sinhue Mendoza
ATLANTA – The University of Notre Dame men’s swimming team placed third at the 2017 ACC Championships and earned the program’s first podium finish since the team started competing in the ACC in 2014. The Irish finished with 923.5 points — the most for a Notre Dame team at the ACC Championships.
For the fourth night in a row, Irish relays broke a Notre Dame record and for a second time in the meet the Irish took home an ACC bronze medal. The quartet of Justin Plaschka, Tabahn Afrik, Reed Fujan, and Daniel Speers set a program record for the 400 relay with a time of 2:51.56. The time was good for an NCAA-A Cut standard, and the team will likely receive an invitation to the NCAA Championships in Indianapolis in late March.
Tabahn Afrik earned Notre Dame’s second individual medal at the championship with his time of 42.86 in the 100 freestyle. The time was an NCAA B-cut standard time, and it marked Afrik’s second medal of the tournament after earning his first as a member of the 200 freestyle relay team that earned a bronze on Tuesday evening.
Sprinting for the Record
While his teammate took home a silver medal in the A Final of the 100 freestyle, in the B Final Justin Plaschka set the program record in the event by clocking in a B-Cut time of 42.78. Plaschka broke the mark set by Frank Dyer (42.84) in 2014.
Backing the Record
Robby Whitacre was fifth in the ACC in the 200 backstroke with his time of 1:41.07. Whitacre broke the school record in the event at the morning prelims with his time of 1:40.60.
Trent with The Breast
Trent Jackson was fourth in the ACC in the 200 breaststroke, tapping in at 1:53.52. The time was his best in the season and was an NCAA B-Cut standard time.
Strong at Sixth
Richard Mannix posted a time of 15:07 in the 1650 freestyle that earned him sixth place honors in the ACC. The time broke a Notre Dame record that had been held by John Nappi (15:14.62) since 2015.
Flying to Seventh
Kevin Bradley came in seventh in the ACC in the 200 butterfly with a time of 1:44.70. Bradley’s points were key to Notre Dame’s ascension in the overall standings. Not far behind, teammate Matt Grauslys came 11th in the event with a time 1:45.21 in the B-Final. Both were NCAA B-Cut times.
COACH LITZINGER’S THOUGHTS
His feelings after coming third in the ACC…
“Finishing third was certainly a great accomplishment for our program. After being seventh last year and with the program trying to find its way with coaching changes and trying to find our identity. This year we preached an awful lot about being a family and team swimming and diving. At the end of the day the guys stepped up and made it happen.”
On the dual style matchup in the final day…
“I knew we would jump up some spots but to fight for third and be in a fight with Virginia Tech all the way to the last two events was great because we are learning how to finish things off. We’re learning as a group how to win.”
On how his team went into the final day of competition…
“The key was getting it done in the morning and putting ourselves in great spots placing-wise. We talked about it last night and they went out and did it this morning. Tonight you just get up and race, and the points take care of themselves.”
On attributing the success to everyone involved…
“It’s certainly a big undertaking and you can’t do it alone. We have some great coaches. Coach Bell, coach Woo, coach Spahn and Caiming Xie and our support staff are excellent, and certainly the support of the University is tremendous and it doesn’t happen without the kids buying into it. Notre Dame is a family and the family starts from the ground up. Every day you come into the pool at 5:30 a.m., and the aquatics staff is ready for practice and the pool is ready. Everybody bought in this year and I think that is a good sign for the future.”
On his seniors…
“Most of all I am proud of the senior group. They’ve been through a lot and accepted the change, and they led us the whole year long.”
The Irish women, who qualified for the NCAA Championships, will compete in the national tournament in Indianapolis from March 15-18.
– ND –
Sinhue Mendoza, athletic communications at the University of Notre Dame has been part of Fighting Irish Media since July of 2016 and oversees communications efforts for the Notre Dame swimming and diving program, manages media and broadcast credentialing for all sports while overseeing football and basketball game day media operations. Mendoza is a 2008 graduate of the Newhouse School at Syracuse University where he earned a degree in broadcast journalism and political science.