Feb. 17, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving team will travel to the Indiana University Natatorium on the campus of IUPUI in Indianapolis, Ind., for the 2009 BIG EAST Conference Swimming and Diving Championships held Feb. 18-21. The four-day meet marks the conference’s 29th year for hosting the event.
Notre Dame broke six school records during last season’s championship meet while claiming the overall team title for the third time in school history. The Irish were 7-6 in dual meet action this season and are receiving votes in the latest CSCAA top 25 poll.
“This is a championship meet for which we’ve been preparing since August,” Irish head coach Tim Welsh said. “This is the show. Everybody is focused on it. We’ve had some very exciting practices heading into the meet, and we’re leaving campus full excitement for what might happen. The field is fast. We know that there is a lot of work to be done for us, hopefully in the preliminaries and in the finals, but we’re certainly excited about our chances.
“Diving will be very important to final team standings. And I think if you are going to watch us over this weekend, you should take note of two things: our qualifying positions in the preliminary heats in the morning, and then the comparison between the entry time and the actual time. It’s all about going fast for us. We know that if we go fast enough, we’ll be in the right place and the scoreboard will count it right. If we spend too much time looking at the scoreboard and not enough time going fast, that seems like the formula for an unhappy result.”
Despite not being able to boast a top seed in any of the meet’s events, the Irish litter the rankings with a formidable cast of competitors that have the potential to finish among the league’s best in any given race. MacKenzie LeBlanc has a pair of BIG EAST titles on his resume with Andrew Hoffman and Joshua Nosal each adding one apiece.
Each of this week’s eight sessions can be viewed live and on-demand at BIGEAST.tv. Preliminary and final results along with daily recaps will be available at UND.com. For up-to-the-minute results and scores, sign up for IRISH ALERTS text messaging services at UND.com.
After competing for 25 years as an independent, Notre Dame joined the Midwestern Collegiate Conference in 1983-84, beginning a 12-year membership through which the Irish would win six league championships (1986, 1988-92) finished runner-up on four occasions (1984-85, 1993-94). Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST Conference prior to the 1995-96 season and has been a member since then.
The Irish have registered 11 consecutive top-four finishes at the BIG EAST Championships. In 2005, Notre Dame registered a meet-record 902.5 points to capture the program’s first-ever BIG EAST title. It was then that the Fighting Irish defeated Pittsburgh, the eight-time defending conference champions, by 275 points. Notre Dame defended its title in 2006 by registering 809 points to top runner-up Pittsburgh and the rest of the field. The Irish were edged out by West Virginia (765.5-761) in their bid for a third consecutive title in 2007 before outsting Louisville for the top spot in 2008.
Notre Dame has won 17 event titles at the BIG EAST meet, with five of those occurring at the 2005 championships and four more in 2006. Tim Kegelman became the first Irish swimmer to win three BIG EAST titles. Kegelman collected all three titles at the 2005 meet by winning the 100 Fly, 200 Individual Medley and was part of the champion 400 Medley Relay.
Ray Fitzpatrick – who was first in the 200 Free in 2000 after anchoring the champion 400 Free Relay in 1999 – was the first Irish student-athlete to win multiple BIG EAST championships. In 2006, Jay Vanden Berg became the second competitor in program history to capture multiple titles in the same meet as he won both the 500 and 1,650 Free events. Vanden Berg also won the 1,650 Free in 2005 and is tied with Kegelman for the program record of three event titles.
The top three finishers in each event gain all-BIG EAST honors, and 49 Notre Dame competitors – including eight on the 2008-09 roster – have achieved that status. Kegelman leads the Irish with 12 all-conference honors, while three Irish athletes have garnered six individual all-BIG EAST accolades (Scott Zumbach, Ted Brown, Jay Vanden Berg). Notre Dame’s top diver in the BIG EAST Championships has been Andy Maggio (2003), who garnered all-BIG EAST accolades three times. John Lytle is second all-time with 11 all-BIG EAST honors.