Swim & Dive Celebrates 60th Anniversary
Former Irish Swimmer Ellie Berdusco '19 filmed and produced this video celebrating the 60th Anniversary weekend.
Former Irish Swimmer Ellie Berdusco ’19 filmed and produced this video celebrating the 60th Anniversary weekend.
Beginning Oct. 18, the Notre Dame Swimming & Diving program welcomed back alumni for the 60th anniversary celebration of the Men’s Swim and Dive team. 2019 also marks the 38th year of existence for the women’s program.
Alumni from each decade made the trip to campus for the special weekend, and festivities kicked off from Friday dinner and continued into Saturday, when the current Irish swimmers and those who had made waves prior mixed. The morning began with a chance for alumni to observe the current team’s practice, and was followed by the main event in the pool that day: the alumni meet.
With heats separated by decade, former Notre Dame swimmers dove in, with participants from each generation of the program’s existence extending back to classes from the 1960s. Current team members formed the cheering section, and while all events were in good fun, competitive nature isn’t easily lost.
Following the meet, the team took a tour of Notre Dame Stadium, giving the group a look inside the recently renovated and historic venue, before coming together for a dinner and silent auction on Saturday night.
Members of the current team’s senior class attended the dinner with the alumni, giving the students a chance to interact with their fellow Irish swimmers from the past.
“Our alumni have always been active since I’ve taken the role of head coach, but to have people come back, relate their stories, talk about their relationship with the program […] was very overwhelming for me, in terms of the loyalty, passion and dedication people have not just for swimming and diving here, but for Notre Dame itself,” Irish head coach Mike Litzinger explained. “It goes from the peripheral to the internal when you see how people are reacting to being back on campus and reacting to what kind of progress the program has made.
“To have that sense of comradeship and loyalty to Notre Dame itself is really, really outstanding.”
The highlight of the night came with the presentation of the Jesse Harper Award from the Notre Dame Monogram Club to former Notre Dame head coach Tim Welsh. Welsh, the longest-tenured swim and dive coach in Notre Dame’s program history, stepped down from his role following the 2013-14 season. While known for his coaching expertise, Welsh is perhaps more remembered for his mentorship and relationships with his student-athletes.
The Jesse Harper Award was established by the Notre Dame Monogram Club to recognize a member for his or her commitment and involvement with the athletic department and the university as a whole.
According to the Monogram Club, recipients of the award should exhibit one or more of the following characteristics: exemplary performance in the spirit and ideals of Notre Dame, demonstration of responsibility to and concern for his/her community, extraordinary commitment and involvement with youth and outstanding achievement in his/her post-Notre Dame career.
Read more about the award and Welsh’s career here.
“What’s really evident is the effect that he’s had on his athletes beyond the pool, and their relationship with him post-swimming. The philosophy that he put forth still resonates with them today,” Litzinger remembered. “When you receive something like the Jesse Harper award, it’s more than just the success of being a coach here. It’s being a coach, it’s being a mentor, it’s being a father, it’s being a friend. It’s being everything that Notre Dame asks you to be in relationship with student-athletes.”
The award was presented by former Irish swimmer and former Monogram Club president, Haley Scott DeMaria (‘95), who called upon a mantra made significant by Welsh during his tenure:
The purpose of Notre Dame Swimming is to pursue – and achieve – athletic excellence, with self-discipline and love for one another.
In her presentation, DeMaria spoke on Welsh’s commitment to his student-athletes around and outside the pool.
“Tim, you may have never donned a swimsuit at Rolfs Aquatic Center, but you are a true Champion of the Fighting Irish and Notre Dame Swimming. You are a true Notre Dame man,” she noted. “And while you were our swim coach, you taught us much more than swimming. You gave us the greatest gift: your love.”
Along with the award, the swim and dive program announced the dedication of their team room, located directly next to the pool, as the Tim Welsh Team Room. In addition to recognizing Welsh’s extraordinary contribution to the program, Litzinger said the dedication will serve to remind student-athletes that “it’s just a little bit more than swimming and diving here.”
The Irish coach added that Welsh’s quote on the purpose of the swimming program will be displayed prominently in the team room that now bears his name.
Alumni have returned home and the current Irish team has embarked back on their dual meet schedule, but the benefits of the weekend will pay dividends beyond just the few days.
“Everybody is now fully engaged in what’s happening with the program, and we’re in touch with our past, and everybody now knows where we’re going,” Litzinger explained.
The Irish will continue their fall/winter season with a tri-meet against Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech beginning Friday, Nov. 7 at 4 p.m.
Photos from the event can be found here under the “Swim & Dive” menu.