Feb. 21, 2004
EAST MEADOW, N.Y. – For the eighth consecutive year, the University of Notre Dame women’s swimming and diving team is the champion of the BIG EAST Conference. En route to a 173.5-point triumph over second-place Rutgers, the 20th-ranked Irish dominated the league awards. Freshman Katie Carroll (Toledo, Ohio/Notre Dame Academy), who became just the fourth freshman in conference history to win three events in the meet, was named the BIG EAST Championships Most Outstanding Swimmer, while senior Meghan Perry-Eaton (Brandon, Fla./Bloomingdale H.S.) repeated as the conference’s Most Outstanding Diver. In addition, diving coach Caiming Xie was named the BIG EAST Women’s Diving Coach of the Year.
Carroll won the 100 freestyle on Saturday to complete a perfect meet. In six races, she was never beaten, earning the top seed in the 200 individual medley, the 100 butterfly, and the 100 free and then going on to win the final of each of them. She outtouched Rutgers’ Casmera Wick on Saturday evening for her final victory in a time of 50.14 seconds, which was .07 better than the Scarlet Knight. Carroll’s time was a season best and an NCAA “B” time. She posted an “A” cut in the 200 IM en route to breaking the school and meet records on Thursday, meaning she has an automatic bid to next month’s NCAA Championships. She has “B” times in the 100 free, 100 fly, and 400 IM, which will allow her to swim in two of those in the NCAAs, as well.
Carroll is the third Notre Dame swimmer to win three individual races in one BIG EAST meet. Linda Gallo was first in the 200 free, 500 free, and 1650 free in 1998, while Carrie Nixon won the 50 free, 100 free, and 100 butterfly in 2000. Those are the only other two Irish student-athletes ever to be named BIG EAST Championships Most Outstanding Swimmer. Only three other freshmen in conference history have posted three first-place finishes: Tracy Pfister of Pittsburgh in 1984, Kristel Tellegen of Miami in 1994, and Maddy Crippen of Villanova in 1999. Carroll is the first swimmer in BIG EAST history to win the 200 IM, 100 fly, and 100 free in the same meet.
The victory total for the meet for Carroll was four, as she took part in the 200 freestyle relay team that opened the meet on Thursday with a victory. The other three relays she swam on – 400 medley, 800 free, and 400 free – all finished second, though the 800 free set a Notre Dame record and all four posted NCAA “B” cuts.
Perry-Eaton swept the diving events, winning off both the one- and three-meter boards, becoming the first non-Miami diver to do the latter since 1995. A year ago, she won the one-meter competition and was named the conference’s top diver en route to being honorable mention All-America with a ninth-place finish at the NCAA Championships. This season, Perry-Eaton is undefeated in three-meter diving and has been beaten just once off the lower board.
Caiming was tabbed the top diving coach in the BIG EAST for the second time, having also won the award in 1999. He has helped Perry-Eaton break the Miami stranglehold on the diving events at the conference meet. Perry-Eaton is the only non-Miami diver to win a BIG EAST event since 1996.
Notre Dame finished with 725.5 points, while Rutgers had 551.
The Irish took second and third in the 200 butterfly. Senior co-captain Lisa Garcia (Denver, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) finished her BIG EAST career with a second-place finish in 2:01.18, while junior Brooke Taylor (Orlando, Fla./Lake Highland Preparatory School) was third for the second year in a row in 2:02.52. She was sixth as a freshman.
A two-time top-20 finisher in the NCAAs in the 200 fly, Garcia posted a pair of “B” times in the meet, meaning she will be considered for a return trip to the NCAAs. The school recordholder in the event and an honorable mention All-American in ’03, she finished second in the conference as a freshman and sophomore prior to last year’s victory. Garcia was second to Carroll in the 200 IM on Thursday and fourth in the 100 fly on Friday, continuing her remarkable record in the BIG EAST meet. In 12 career individual races in the conference meet, Garcia never finished worse than fifth, a resume highlighted by a pair of victories (200 IM and 200 fly in ’03) and six runner-up results.
Senior Marie Labosky (Churchville, Pa./Germantown Academy), a three-time NCAA qualifier, finished second in the 200 back behind two-time champion Kelly Harrigan of Rutgers, who set a BIG EAST Championships record of 1:55.76. in the 200 back. The fifth-place finisher in 2003 in her first time swimming the event at the conference meet, Labosky improved upon her season best with a 1:59.33, an NCAA “B” cut that would have gained entrance into the meet in 2003. Labosky finished her career with nine top-six finishes in her career at the conference championships, including three titles (200 IM in ’01, 400 IM in ’03 and ’04).
With “B” cuts in the 200 back and 400 IM, but no “A” times to her credit, Labosky will be forced to wait until the announcement of the NCAA field in two weeks to see if she becomes Notre Dame’s sixth four-time qualifier in the national championships, joining Tanya Williams (’93), Shannon Suddarth (’00), Carrie Nixon (’02), Kelly Hecking (’02), and diver Heather Mattingly (’02).
Senior Danielle Hulick (Galesburg, Ill./Galesburg H.S.) finished an outstanding BIG EAST career by taking fourth place in the 100 free in 51.15. She posted nine career top-five finishes in individual races in the conference meet, including a win in last year’s 50 freestyle. Hulick notched her third NCAA “B” cut of the meet, but will have to wait until the field is announced to see if she qualifies for the NCAAs for the second year in a row.
Junior Georgia Healey (New York, N.Y./Trinity School) followed up a fourth-place finish in last year’s meet with a third-place result in the 200 breast on Saturday with a time of 2:18.22. Freshman Jessica Stephens (Bloomsburg, Pa./Bloomsburg H.S.) took fifth in 2:18.95, while sophomore Courtney Choura (Bridgeville, Pa./Oakland Catholic H.S.) finished seventh for the second year in a row, this time with a time of 2:20.70.
Notre Dame finished the meet with a second-place result in the 400 free relay. Junior Katie Eckholt (Omaha, Neb./Marian H.S.), Hulick, freshman Rebecca Grove (Yorktown Heights, N.Y./Yorktown H.S.), and Carroll turned in an NCAA “B” cut time of 3:23.00.
Junior Kelli Barton (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral H.S.) was Notre Dame’s top finisher in the 1650 freestyle, coming in 10th in 17:02.33. It was her third top-10 finish in the race in as many years, and it marked a season-best time for the 2002 NCAA qualifier. Freshman Abby Strang (St. Simons Island, Ga./The Bolles School) scored her first points of the meet with a 12th-place finish and a season-best time of 17:13.06.
Notre Dame finished with six in the top 15 of the 200 backstroke. Junior Sarah Alwen (Cairo, Egypt/Cairo American College) was 11th in a season-best time of 2:02.73, while junior Kristen Peterson (Wichita, Kan./Bishop Carroll H.S.) took 12th with her top time of the season, 2:03.40. Freshman Kiley Gooch (Carmel, Ind./Carmel H.S.) finished 15th with a time of 2:04.94.
Senior co-captain Laurie Musgrave (Littleton, Colo./Arapahoe H.S.) was 13th in the 200 breast with a time of 2:23.48, while Kelli Barton, swimming her second event of the day, finished right behind in 2:24.50.
Eckholt was 11th in the 100 freestyle with a season-best time of 52.17.
Notre Dame and the Pittsburgh men’s swimming and diving team, which also won its eighth consecutive title on Saturday, are the only two squads in any sport to have won eight BIG EAST championships since 1995-96, the year the Irish joined the league. Their streaks of eight straight titles are tied for the fourth-longest in conference history. Pittsburgh won 10 in a row in men’s swimming and diving from 1983-92 and nine straight in women’s swimming and diving from 1983-91, while Connecticut’s streak of nine in a row in women’s basketball was snapped last year (’94-’02). Boston College won eight in a row in men’s tennis from 1981-88.
The remainder of the Irish season is somewhat unclear. What is known is that Perry-Eaton will compete in the NCAA Zone C Diving meet March 12-13 in Bloomington, Ind. in an effort to earn a return trip to the NCAA Championships. Only Carroll is guaranteed a spot in the NCAAs, slated for March 18-20 in College Station, Texas. Seven other Irish swimmers – Ann Barton (200 IM, 200 free, 200 back), Choura (100 breast), Garcia (200 IM, 200 fly), Grove (50 free, 100 back), Hulick (50 free, 10 back, 100 free), Johnson (200 free, 200 back), and Labosky (400 IM, 200 back) – as well as four relay teams (200 free, 400 free, 800 free, 400 medley), have “B” times and will have to wait until the field is announced to see if they earn invitations. The Goper-It Invitational in Minneapolis, Minn. also was tentatively on the Irish schedule for next weekend as a last-chance meet. Updates on the rest of the Irish season will be released as they become available on und.com, Notre Dame’s official athletic website.