Oct. 5, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Coming off a record-setting season by winning their 11th-straight BIG EAST title, the most consecutive wins by any program in BIG EAST history, the Notre Dame women’s swimming and diving team enters the 2007-08 season with high expectations. Led by third-year head coach Carrie Nixon, the Irish will have to fill holes of graduated seniors, while embracing the talent of incoming freshman. They will look to not only reach the levels of success that the program has traditionally found in the past, but also break past them.
The 2006-07 season was highly successful for the Irish. Along with the conference title, Nixon coached the women’s team to 10 individual and two relay BIG EAST championships and took her team onto the national scene where the Irish finished 27th at the NCAA Championships with 25 points. The Irish finished the season with an 8-1 record in dual meets and ranked 19th nationally in the dual-meet pool by the College Swim Coaches Association of America (CSCAA).
“We had a great season last year so this year we are really expecting a lot,” Nixon says. “Obviously we want to pick up that 12th BIG EAST title and keep that winning streak alive. We also want to send more girls to the national meet and finish higher. Last season we took eight girls to NCAAs and finished 27th. This year we want to take more and look to finish in the top 15. We’re in a position to reach those goals this year and that’s what makes it all exciting.”
The loss of Irish standout Katie Carroll will undoubtedly be felt as the 2007-08 season kicks off. Carroll, who graduated in the spring of 2007, left as a two-time All-American in the 400 IM. She was also named the BIG EAST Most Outstanding Swimmer in both 2004 and 2007. While the loss of Carroll will be huge, especially at the conference level, Nixon is confident that returnees as well as newcomers will be able to work together to fill the gap.
“I think we did an excellent job these past two years knowing that the 2007 class would be exiting and knowing that it would be tough to replace them since they played such a big role in our success in the past,” Nixon says. “I think we’ve really done a great job replacing those girls hand-for-hand in our freshmen and sophomores. We’re really bottom heavy with a lot of sophomores and freshmen and they’re going to play a big part in our success in the next four years.”
Leading as team captains for the Irish will be seniors Katie Guida and Morgan Bullock. Both enter their fourth year with the team. They will be looked at by the whole team as role models and also positive nature. Together with the team, Nixon hopes for the season to run smoothly, positively and overall successfully.
“I always say a happy swimmer is a fast swimmer,” Nixon says. “When you feel good about practice, then you feel good about your team, teammates and coaches. In the end that equals fast swimming. You have to love it, love working hard and doing it unselfishly for you teammates, your school and representing all that comes with you. The girls have really embraced that this year so it should be fun to watch it throughout the whole season.”
The women’s swimming and diving team will open up the season with the Dennis Stark Relays on Oct. 5, 2007 at the Rolfs Aquatic Center. The competition is set to start at 5 p.m. (EDT).
Here is a look at how the 2007-08 Notre Dame women’s swimming and diving team will break down by event.
The distance freestyle group will be led by junior Claire Hutchinson during the 2007-08 campaign. Hutchinson was a NCAA Championships qualifier in 2007, finding success in both the 500-meter and the 1,650-meter freestyle. Also looking to make an impact in the area will be sophomore Lexie Shue, who posted good times during her freshman season, but was not able to compete at the BIG EAST due to injuries. Shue returns healthy for the Irish and Nixon expects her to add depth to the area.
“We have her (Shue) healthy now and we’re just excited to see what she’s capable of,” Nixon says. “She had some very fast times coming out of high school and we weren’t able to see those manifest themselves last season. We’re thrilled to have her back in the mix of things this year.”
Coming off NCAA Championships qualifications, two relay championships at the BIG EAST and an individual second-place showing at the conference level, junior Christa Riggins will be a staple for the Irish in the middle-distance freestyle events. Her quick improvements in the area has led her to become a leader for others on the team.
“Christa (Riggins) has been able to improve at an incredible rate with her times dropping significantly each season,” Nixon says. “She just started swimming when she was a sophomore in high school, so she has a lot of room to improve and has really led the way. She continues to challenge others in practice and has really taken the reigns of the middle-distance group.”
Coming into the sprints will be freshman Amywren Miller, a young athlete that Nixon believes will be able to contribute early on in her career. Miller joins the team with some of the fastest times by an incoming freshman in the history of Notre Dame women’s swimming. As a former swimmer with the Irish and the most decorated in the sports history, Nixon remarks, “they’re even faster times than I had coming in,” a true sign of the talent.
Returning in the area for the Irish will be senior Caroline Johnson. Johnson comes into her final season as an NCAA Qualifier and five-time BIG EAST champion. Over her last three years, she has played a major role in relays for the Irish, being a member of three championship relay teams at the conference level last season.
A new duo has arrived for the Irish with sophomore Keri Masterson and incoming freshman Kellyn Kuhlke. Masterson returns as the top swimmer for the Irish in the fly and she is joined by newcomer Kuhlke. Kuhlke comes in with great experience in the event, including a Texas state title in the 100 fly, a tough feat in a state filled with swimming talent. The two will work to fill a hole left by swimming standout Katie Carroll.
“They (Masterson and Kuhlke) are great training partners,” Nixon says. “They work really hard together and push each other in practice. With that I think they’ll be able to push each other the entire season and we’ll be able to see great things from it.”
After standout freshmen campaigns, sophomores Ashlee Edgell and Megan Farrell will return as the top-two competitors for the Irish in the IM. Edgell just missed making the cut for the NCAA Championships during her first season, but was victorious at the BIG EAST Championships, taking the title in the 200 IM, with Farrell close behind in fourth place. Edgell also took third in the 400 IM at the conference meet, earning her two all-BIG EAST accolades. The two will work together to strengthen the Irish in the event, after the loss of Katie Carroll, a two-time All-American in the 400 IM.
“Ashlee will definitely lead the way for us in the IM,” Nixon says. “She’s a great kid with tons of potential. She’s tall and has a lot going for her and even last year we saw huge improvements in her times so I think she will be a main athlete for our team this year.”
A top swimmer returning for the Irish in the backstroke will be senior Caroline Johnson. Johnson, who finished second in the 100 backstroke at the BIG EAST Championships, will find herself not only in a role as a top swimmer, but also a leader as she will be joined by freshman Lauren Parisi. Together, Johnson and Parisi will be looked towards to lead the event. Also joining them will be sophomore Maggie Behrens. Behrens surprised Nixon by being one of the strongest in the backstroke as she was the third fastest for the Irish in the 50 and the 100 backstroke.
“Maggie is someone that really surprised us last year,” Nixon says. “She’s done an excellent job training over the summer and I think she’ll be able to drop her times even more than she did last year. She’s really stepped up to this higher level and she’s doing a great job.”
Although a newcomer, Sam Maxwell will be looked towards to be the top swimmer in the breaststroke. Maxwell comes into the program with some of the best prep times in the event in the history of the program. Her times are even faster than graduate Julia Quinn who was the number-one swimmer for the Irish in the event last season. Maxwell will join senior Katie Hopkins along with another newcomer, Lizzie Gormley, to make up the core group in the breast.
Sophomores Tiffany Roback and Natalie Stitt return as the top divers for the Irish, along with senior Tara Hyer and junior Lucy Hirt. Together, the four will be the lead divers throughout the 2007-08 campaign. Both Roback and Stitt competed on the national level at the NCAA Zone C Diving Championships with Roback finishing 16th in the 3-meter and Stitt taking 12th in the same event. Both girls, along with Hyer played a major part at the BIG EAST Championships, bringing in a combined total of 77 points for the Irish team victory.