Feb. 16, 2000
After preparing all season, the Notre Dame men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams head to Uniondale, N.Y., and the Goodwill Games Swimming Center for the 2000 BIG EAST championships, February 17-19.
The Notre Dame women are the three-time defending BIG EAST champions and have the opportunity to become the first Irish team to win a BIG EAST title four years in a row. The men, meanwhile, finished a best-ever second at last year’s conference championships after placing fourth in 1998 and seventh in both 1996 and 1997.
Notre Dame women: Carrying its highest ranking this season, the 19th-ranked women’s squad is riding high after posting a 10-0 dual-meet record, including victories over #9 Michigan and #12 Northwestern.
The Irish swimmers will be led by a talented group of senior All-Americans including Elizabeth Barger (Littleton, Colo.), Alison Newell (Parker, Colo.) and Shannon Suddarth (Topeka, Kan.). Barger is the most decorated Irish swimmer in BIG EAST competition having won four individual titles, including three straight in the 100 butterfly, and five relay titles. Newell, an honorable mention All-American as a freshman in 1997 (200 butterfly), has earned all-BIG EAST status 10 times and has already swum NCAA B times this year in the 500 freestyle and the 200 butterfly. Suddarth, meanwhile, will be looking for her third straight BIG EAST title in the 200 breaststroke.
All-Americans Carrie Nixon (Ouray, Colo.) and Kelly Hecking (Rutherford, N.J.) will play a noticeable role in both their individual events and a number of relays. Nixon, a five-time BIG EAST champion, has already logged three NCAA B times in 2000 in the 50 and 100 freestyle as well as the 100 butterfly. She also holds six Notre Dame records and five BIG EAST records. As a freshman in 1999, Hecking won the 100 backstroke, placed second in the 200 backstroke and was a member of the winning 200 medley, 400 medley and the 200 freestyle relays.
Swimmers Laura Shepard (Pound Ridge, N.Y.), Kathleen Rimkus (Chantilly, Va.), Kristen Van Saun (Lawrence, Kan.), Brooke Davey (Hopewell Junction, N.Y.) and Allison Lloyd (Fort Wayne, Ind.) and Tara Riggs (Mt. Pleasant, S.C.) are other names to watch for the Irish.
Notre Dame Men: With 10 different swimmers earning all-conference honors in 1999, the Irish men will be looking to continue their improvement at the BIG EAST meet. Last season, the Irish won their first-ever event titles, capturing three in all, and set 14 of the school’s 19 swimming records.
Swimmers to watch this season include 1999 BIG EAST individual champions sophomore Jonathan Pierce (Newburgh, Ind.) and junior Dan Szilier (Norristown, Pa.) as well as three-time runner-up senior Ray Fitzpatrick (Doylestown, Pa.). Pierce became the first Irish men’s swimmer to win an event at the ’99 BIG EAST meet, posting a NCAA B and school-record time of 15:35.65 in the 1650 freestyle on the final day of competition. Szilier also won the 200 breaststroke on the meet’s final day with a NCAA B and school-record time of 2:00.09. Both Szilier (breaststroke) and Pierce (distance freestyle) own the team’s top times in their respective strokes. Fitzpatrick, a team co-captain, finished second three times at the 1999 conference meet in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle, in addition to anchoring the winning 400 freestyle relay team.
Junior Brian Skorney (100) and freshman T.J. Durkin (200) will headline the team’s backstroke events, while senior Brendan Lechner (100 butterfly), junior Ryan Verlin (200 butterfly, 400 IM) and senior Rob Fetter (200 IM) all hold top team times in their respective events in 2000.
Notre Dame Diving: The Notre Dame diving teams will both be in action this weekend. The women, led by NCAA participant Heather Mattingly (Houston, Texas) and school record-holder senior Gina Ketelhohn (Brown Deer, Wis.), will receive challenges from Miami, which will send three divers who are on the U.S. national squad, and Pittsburgh. Mattingly placed second on the three-meter board and was third on the one-meter board as a freshman in 1999.
The men return after a one-year hiatus. Senior Herb Huesman (Cincinnati, Ohio), who did not dive last season due to injury, is the only Irish men’s diver with previous BIG EAST experience, posting two fourth-place finishes in 1998 and two sixth-place finishes in 1997. Freshmen Andy Maggio (Cincinnati. Ohio) and Tony Xie (Granger, Ind.) round out the Notre Dame men’s entries.
The Coaching Staff: Both Notre Dame women’s coach Bailey Weathers and men’s coach Tim Welsh earned conference coach-of-the-year honors in 1999. Weathers has earned the award the past three years, while Welsh was a first time honoree. Notre Dame diving coach Caiming Xie also was honored as the women’s diving coach of the year in 1999.
On the horizon: The Irish will play host to their last home meet of the 1999-2000 season, the Shamrock Classic, February 26-27, with trials beginning at 11 a.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. on Sunday. Finals are slated for 7 p.m. on Saturday and 6 p.m. on Sunday. The Shamrock Classic serves as a last chance meet to record qualifying times for the NCAA championships, which will be held in Indianapolis, Ind., for the women (March 16-18) and in Minneapolis, Minn., for the men (March 23-25).