Oct. 31, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The advantage of competing at home in organized athletics can at times be an immeasurable factor in team performance. Remaining in a comfort zone, and keeping a regular schedule free from the rigors of travel both contribute to what at times is a lopsided level of success for teams in various sports at home in comparison to away competitions.
The No. 22 University of Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving team stepped out of that zone of normalcy last week during the university’s fall break, training at altitude at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. in advance of the season’s first away dual meet at Air Force. A 134-128 victory over the Falcons gave the Irish their first victory of 2013-14.
“It was an extremely positive experience for our team, and the outcome was just wonderful,” Notre Dame head coach Tim Welsh said. “The training was at high altitude, high speed, high volume, and the workload was heavy, but the spirit and effort was excellent. What we saw in the meet at Air Force last Friday night was that our guys raced with a lot of heart.
“The races themselves were very close, and frequently they were close coming into the last lap or halfway through the last lap,” he said. “Our guys managed to pull ahead at the end of those races, and I thought that was a great sign of courage, discipline, great heart and great spirit.”
Notre Dame was victorious in its first trip to the Air Force Academy in 11 years, and the meet itself was not even the end of the weeklong training trip. Welsh said the team returned to the Olympic Training Center for a final practice session on Sunday morning before boarding a flight back home, maximizing the uniqueness of competing at altitude until the very end.
“We had previously tabbed the week as being a launching pad for the rest of the season, and I still think that’s true,” Welsh said. “When we go to Purdue on Friday we will not entirely know where our conditioning will be, we could be at a variety of levels. What is clear is that we are going there and whatever we have got, that’s what we are going to race with.”
The Irish are looking for their first win over Purdue at the Boilermaker Aquatic Center in over a decade, and Welsh feels that the recent struggles in West Lafayette will have no bearing on the team this weekend.
“There have been points where we have started off well at Purdue, like a few years ago when we won the first event and then found out we had been disqualified, that let some of the air out of our tires,” he said. “In general, I think it has not been a lack of desire or eagerness to race there, we just have not raced well. We are going down this year with a fresh start, a fresh approach to the year, and are looking forward to getting off the bus and racing well.”
After having the entirety of fall break to train twice a day, each day, the team returned to the schedule of a normal academic week once classes resumed on Monday. Welsh mentioned that Thursday was the first morning in a number of weeks in which Notre Dame did not have a scheduled early practice session, which given the point in the competitive year is not always a normal occurrence on a season-long practice slate.
“Overall, though, there is no change in our approach or schedule, we are still trying to build into our last meet of this semester and into the meets next semester,” Welsh said. “We are focusing on how good we can be at the end of the season come the conference championships, and everything really backs up from that. Looking in February and March, what happened in October is backed up pretty far. What we have seen so far is that the guys have been ready to race every time we have opened the gates, and we will open the gates again Friday and let it go.”
— Tony Jones, Media Relations Assistant