March 18, 2004
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Irish senior Meghan Perry-Eaton (Brandon, Fla./Bloomingdale H.S.) delivered the highest-ever finish in the NCAAs for a Notre Dame competitor, taking third in one-meter diving Thursday evening in the 2004 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships in the Student Rec Center Natatorium. Meanwhile, freshman Katie Carroll (Toledo, Ohio/Notre Dame Academy) won the consolation final to finish ninth in the 200-meter individual medley, breaking her own school record for the second time in a day and registering the best-ever finish for an Irish rookie. After one day of competition,#20 Notre Dame stood 17th in the team standings with 25 points.
“We had a great evening,” said head coach Bailey Weathers. “Meghan turned in the highest finish we’ve ever had at the NCAAs, and Katie had a pretty incredible swim. We’re really excited and proud. Both of them did a great job.”
Perry-Eaton was in contention for the title. After being fourth in the preliminaries with a score of 290.40, she surged into second place after the second dive of the evening session. She remained in that spot until the last dive of the competition, when Lane Bassham of Alabama edged her out for the runner-up spot. Perry-Eaton ended with a score of 303.90 — her third-best total of the season — while Bassham had a 305.85. The Irish senior trailed champion Allison Brennan of South Carolina (307.20) by just 3.30 points, while Auburn’s Ashley Rubenstein was close behind Perry-Eaton with 303.05 points.
“Meghan did a great job being consistently strong throughout the competition,” said Irish head diving coach Caiming Xie. “She was definitely close to finishing first; she could have won. But this is fantastic. It capped off a great year for her. Meghan worked really hard througout the season, and looked confident and calm out there today.”
Each of the top eight finishers in every event gain All-America honors, making Perry-Eaton the sixth different Irish student-athlete — and second diver — to be named an All-American in NCAA competition. She joins diver Heather Mattingly (3-meter, 2002) and swimmers Carrie Nixon (50 free, 2000 and ’02), Shannon Suddarth (100 breast, 1998), Erin Brooks (200 back, 1997), and Tanya Williams (1991, 400 IM). Perry-Eaton was named honorable mention All-America in 2003 for her ninth-place finish off the one-meter board.
Prior to Thursday, the top result by a Notre Dame student-athlete at the NCAA meet was a fourth-place finish by Nixon in the 50 freestyle in 2000.
Carroll, whose seed time was 22nd heading into the meet, won the 200 IM consolation final in a time of 2:12.28, which would have placed her sixth in the championship final and does rank as one of the top 20 times in the world in the race this year. The mark converts to a yards time of 1:58.52, meaning Carroll swam the fastest 200 IM in school history for her third consecutive time in the pool. She broke Lisa Garcia’s (Denver, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) record of 2:01.00 by winning the BIG EAST title with a time of 2:00.65 then followed that up with a 2:13.43 in the NCAA prelims, which converts to a yards time of 1:59.55.
Finishing right behind Carroll was freshman Katie McCann of Florida, who had a time of 2:13.16.
In the championship final, USC’s Kaitlin Sandeno broke NCAA and U.S. Open records by winning with a time of 2:08.11 over Auburn’s Kirsty Coventry, who had set the same marks in the morning prelims. Whitney Myers of Arizona, the only freshman to finish ahead of Carroll, was third in 2:10.23.
Before Carroll’s swim, the best-ever finish by an Irish rookie at the NCAAs was Alison Newell’s 10th-place result in the 200 butterfly in 1997.
All competitors in the consolation final (ninth-16th finishers) are named honorable mention All-America. Carroll is the eighth Notre Dame freshman in the NCAA era — and seventh since 1997 — to earn All-America accolades, joining Williams (1990, honorable mention, 400 IM), Suddarth (1997, honorable mention, 200 breast), Newell (1997, honorable mention, 200 fly), Nixon (1999, honorable mention, 50 free and 200 medley relay and 400 medley relay), Kelly Hecking (1999, honorable mention, 200 medley relay and 400 medley relay), Marie Labosky (Churchville, Pa./Germantown Academy) (2001, honorable mention, 400 IM), and Kristen Peterson (Wichita, Kan./Bishop Carroll H.S.) (2002, honorable mention, 400 free relay). Carroll is the sixth to do it in an individual event.
Since 1990, Notre Dame has had 36 top-16 finishes gaining All-America mention, including seven in the top eight. Seventeen different student-athletes have garnered some sort of All-America honors in the NCAA era, while the Irish had four swimmers combine for six AIAW All-America accolades from 1979-80.
Both Perry-Eaton and Carroll turned in the best-ever finishes for Irish competitors in their respective events. The top Notre Dame result in one-meter diving prior to Thursday was Perry-Eaton’s ninth a year ago, while Labosky’s 20th-place finish in 2001 was tops in the 200 IM.
Following day one and six events, defending national champion #1 Auburn led the NCAA Championships with 188 points, while #2 Georgia was second with 135. The Irish are ahead of nine teams ranked in the final CSCAA national rankings, including four higher-ranked squads. Ranked teams behind Notre Dame after day one were #10 SMU (20th), #14 Maryland (T-23rd), #15 North Carolina (0 points), #18 Florida State (T-18th), #19 Virginia (T-29th), #21 Missouri (0 points), #23 Princeton (0 points), #24 Hawaii (22nd), and #25 Minnesota (0 points).
Notre Dame’s 25 points already are more than twice the total Irish student-athletes managed last year. In 2003, Notre Dame tied for 33rd with 12 points.
Perry-Eaton, who was victorious in the one-meter competition last weekend to become the first-ever Irish diver to win a title in the NCAA Zone C Championships, had been defeated just once all season in the event prior to Thursday. She was second to Michigan’s Tealin Keleman at the Michigan Invitational, but has since defeated Keleman three times (dual meet on Jan. 31, NCAA zone meet, NCAAs). She topped 11 teams in dual meets and also took first place in the Texas A&M Invitational, Notre Dame Invitational, and BIG EAST Championships.
Perry-Eaton was named the BIG EAST Championships Most Outstanding Diver for the second consecutive year after sweeping the diving competitions. She held comfortable margins of victory in both events, defeating Miami’s Emily Spychala by 49.25 points in the three-meter competition and by 41.80 points off the one-meter board. Also the 2003 champion off the one-meter board, she is the only non-University of Miami diver since 1996 to win an event in the BIG EAST meet. She also has a pair of runner-up finishes (’02 in 1-meter and ’03 in 3-meter) and a fourth at the conference meet.
Perry-Eaton holds three of the four diving school records, while the last – 10 dives off the one-meter board – is not used in competition any longer, eliminating her chance of breaking Heather Mattingly’s record. Perry-Eaton broke her own school record in six dives off the three-meter board with a score of 335.85 in the Michigan Invitational. Perry-Eaton also holds the Irish records for 11 dives off the three-meter board (586.43) and for six dives in one-meter competition (331.58), as well as the Rolfs Aquatic Center records for six dives off both boards (322.64 in 1m, 333.82 in 3m).
Carroll, named the Most Outstanding Swimmer at last month’s conference meet, is one of just four student-athletes ever to win three BIG EAST titles as a freshman (200 IM, 100 fly, 100 free). Carroll holds the top time on the Irish in five events this season (100 free, 500 free, 100 fly, 200 IM, 400 IM) and is third in two others (50 free, 200 free).
Perry-Eaton and Carroll will be in action again on Friday in the NCAA Championships. The senior will compete in the three-meter diving competition, while the rookie will swim the 400-meter individual medley. The swimming prelims will begin at 11 a.m. (CST), while the diving preliminaries will start at 1 p.m. Finals are set for 7 p.m.