The Irish escape the winter wonderland for several days of sun in The Bahamas.

Women's Swimming, Diving And Blogging: Winter Training Trip

Head coach Brian Barnes and his 24th-ranked Notre Dame swimming team head to The Bahamas for the squad’s annual winter training trip. Each of the Irish seniors will be blogging on throughout the trip, with Barnes adding a final entry as the team returns to the mainland for a Jan. 10 tri-meet at Northwestern.

Check back to for the latest from the Irish including plenty of stories, laughs, updates and winter training experiences.

(Editor’s note: has learned that the women in The Bahamas have little to no access to the Internet … therefore, the respective blogs will be posted when they touch down in the mainland … thank you for your patience!)

Jan. 2, 2009

Casey Wagner (Glenshaw, Pa. / Shady Side) – Senior
Only after a few days of being in the Bahamas we got to experience an event that truly captures the culture of the Bahamas, the parade of Junkanoo. This annual New Year’s Eve event attracts thousands of tourists and native residents every year. The parade begins at midnight on New Year’s Eve and last until approximately 3 p.m. on New Year’s Day. As a team we fortunately had the opportunity to attend the parade and experience this wonderful cultural event.

The parade consists of different groups or organizations from the Bahama islands. Each group/organization had a different theme, which is expressed through their hand-made costumes, floats and decorations. Each theme was uniquely different and many of the costumes were quite intricate and detailed. The bright and exuberant colors and details of the costumes were amazing. Each group had spent many hours in preparation for the parade because a judging panel evaluated their overall performance. The group/organization with the highest score wins $100,000!

Even though we did not stay until the end of the parade, it was amazing to get the chance to watch even a small portion of the parade. It made all of us appreciate and understand the culture of the Bahamas much better. If you think the Macy’s parades are neat, you haven’t witnessed a true parade until you experience Junkanoo!

Jan. 3, 2009
Lucy Hirt (Mundelein, Ill. / Mundelein) – Senior
*note: Lucy and the women divers are training in Puerto Rico with head coach Caiming Xie

Today was another warm and humid day in Puerto Rico, a little less sunshine than the past few days, but still beautiful. This morning we started out like we always do, with a little bit of running and stretching and conditioning. We saw some HUGE waves (keep in mind this is the vocabulary of a midwest girl – HUGE means four or five feet, which is huge compared to normal waves at the beach). The divers asked head coach Caiming Xie if we could go body surfing and he agreed! We had so much fun getting tossed by the waves. There were a few scares as a few of us got caught in the undertow, but everyone made it back to shore safely with only a few bruises.

Otherwise, training has been business as usual. The facilities are beautiful, although the water has surprisingly been freezing! But it’s nothing a little sunshine won’t fix. We’ve been working hard, getting sore, smacking here and there, but overall having a great time.

Adios amigos!

Jan. 4, 2009

Christa Riggins (Phoenix, Ariz. / Sunnyslope) – Senior
This morning we set sail towards the Exuma Islands. Located approximately one hour away, traveling by speedboat, the Irish ladies began their adventurous day on what started off as a beautiful boat ride.

Earlier that morning the local weather channel informed us there was a chance of rain; however, the partially cloudy skies had not worried anyone until we realized our boat was heading towards the only black spot in the sky. Eventually we reached the storm and it began to pour. Most of us had brought sweatshirts to keep warm and dry, and then there was Kieran who had only a white shirt, which was plastered against her face from the wind, and a hotel towel.

Once we arrived at our first destination, the rain had stopped for the most part. On this island we fed grapes to the iguanas. They seemed scared of us and slowly crawled back to the bushes. Some of the girls (Katie Casey) proceeded to crawl on the ridged rocks barefoot to chase after and feed the iguanas. Luckily, Katie was not seriously injured.

We boarder the boat once again, and went to a private island where we were informed we would feed and pet sting rays, feed sharks, snorkel and meet a wild hog. Once the boat was docked we explored the island for a bit before meeting the island sharks. Just below the dock, fifteen sharks and three sting rays swam. Soon we were given instruction on how to feed the sting rays without losing a finger.

After feeding the sting rays we watched one of the boat crew members, who had taken a course in “shark wrangling”, feed the sharks. Most of us were in the water, about shin deep, the group of nurse and reef sharks were as close as three feet away. Following the shark wrangling show the crew members informed us it was now safe to go snorkeling.

By the time the group returned from snorkeling lunch was ready. The food was amazing. For the rest of our time on the island we tanned and enjoyed our day off of swimming.

Jan. 7, 2009
Lucy Hirt (Mundelein, Ill. / Mundelein) – Senior

Today was another long day of training here in Puerto Rico, but since it was our last day we got to “goof around” a little bit at the end of practice. We all started jumping off 10-meter board. Since we don’t have a tower at Notre Dame, it’s always scary being up that high. Some of the boys were doing crazy things, like jumping off each other and what not. Most of us did standing back flips, but then Caiming put us all to shame and came up to the 10-meter and did a jumping back layout (for those of you not aware of how scary that is, trust me, it’s CRAZY!).

So practice was fun, and now we’re just packing and getting ready to meet our swimmers at Northwestern. While it’s been a fun training trip, we’re definitely excited to get back with our team, and get back to school.

Thank you to all the administration, coaches, and parents that let us come on this training trip – it has been wonderful to train in the sun.

Love to you all!

Jan. 8, 2009
Claire Hutchinson (Baltimore, Md. / McDonogh) – Senior

On one of our very last days in the Bahamas we had a Beach Olympics organized by our strength coach Elisa and our trainer Mandy.

The afternoon had ten events and we were divided into two teams: the Blue Barracudas and the Bronzed Goddesses. Each team member had to participate in at least five out of the ten events; which made it some what strategic considering that some people have limitations from injuries and others are just very uncoordinated out of the water. Some of the events were beach soccer, open-water swimming, a push-up competition, and running races. Each of the events were scored differently, making it more important to do well in some more than others.

Some of the highlights of the afternoon were the soccer game, the push-up competition, and the open-water swim. The push-up competition involved six girls from each team, but the last team that had one girl left doing push-ups won. It came down to Gina Mancini of the Blue Barracudas and Megan Farrell of the Bronzed Goddesses. It seemed as if the two of them could have kept going all day but eventually Megan dropped out and Gina won.

Probably the event the showed our competitive sides the most was the beach soccer game. I think that we really surprised our coaches because we were all screaming so loud that almost everyone on the beach was looking at us. After a couple of overtimes, Maggie Berhens of the Bronzed Goddesses scored the game-winning goal.

Going into the last event, the open-water swim, the score was 18-15 in favor of the Bronzed Goddess. If the Blue Barracudas were to finish 1-2-3 the event then the Olympics would end in a tie. In the end, all three of the girls from the Blue Barracudas won and it did end in a tie.

The Beach Olympics were really fun and all of the girls on the team had a great time. Afterwards we all hung out at the beach, which was walking distance from our hotel, and took some pictures before going back for dinner.