March 20, 2018
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The final NCAA sanctioned swimming event of the season looms on the horizon. Looking to ride the momentum of a successful campaign in the water into the national meet, the University of Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving team will take part in the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
No. 19 Notre Dame returns to the NCAA meet following the best finish at the championships in program history in 2017. The Irish scored 29 points to place 25th at the NCAA Championships last March in Indianapolis, raising the bar for the program at the national meet in 2018. Notre Dame sends four individual competitors and four total relay squads to Minneapolis in search of NCAA points and prestige.
"Our team is ready to perform in Minneapolis," Notre Dame head coach Mike Litzinger said. "It's been a great year, and the men are ready to finish it off at the fastest meet in the world. The seniors, Justin Plaschka, Joe Coumos and Rob Whitacre, are in a great spot to lead, and Zach Yeadon is prepared to put us on the map in the distance events. It is going to be an exciting weekend."
Irish Storm The NCAA Pool
A host of Notre Dame student-athletes have punched their tickets to the NCAA Championships, which will be held Wednesday through Saturday in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Three Notre Dame swimmers have qualified for individual events at this week’s NCAA men’s meet. Justin Plaschka will race in both the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly events, entering the meet ranked 23rd nationally in the 50 free and 11th nationally in the 100 fly.
Rob Whitacre will compete in both the 200 backstroke and the 200 IM during the 2018 NCAA Championships for Notre Dame. Whitacre set an Irish program record in the 200 back earlier this season, ranking 13th nationally. His top 200 IM effort is the 34th-fastest time in the country thus far in 2017-18.
Zach Yeadon enters his first career NCAA Championships meet in the midst of a historic freshman season for Notre Dame. Yeadon, a two-time ACC Men’s Swimmer Selection of the Week (Oct. 10 and Jan. 30), will race in the 500 and 1650 freestyle events. To date, his Irish record time in the 500 free ranks seventh in the country and earned him an automatic invitation to the NCAA meet. Yeadon’s school record 1650 free swim is slotted third in the country on the eve of NCAAs, with his additional record split in the 1000 free ranking sixth in Division I men’s swimming.
On the relay schedule, Notre Dame will be represented in the 200 and 400 freestyle relay events, along with the 200 and 400 medley relay preliminary heats. The Irish posted NCAA A-cuts in both the 200 (1:17.61) and 400 (2:51.62) free relays earlier this season to earn automatic bids to the NCAA Championships.
In diving, Joe Coumos returns to the NCAA Championships for the fourth time in his career and will dive off both the 1-meter and 3-meter boards. Coumos was the ACC runner-up in the 1-meter event at the conference championships meet last month with a score of 391.90 points.
Irish Rewrite The Record Books
A total of eight Notre Dame program records have been established during the 2017-18 season on the road to the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships. Seven individual swimming events and one diving high score off the 3-meter board set the pace in Irish program history, with the oldest top time in the Notre Dame record book now dating back only as far as 2014.
Justin Plaschka threw down the fastest Notre Dame 50 freestyle in history, placing fourth in the ‘A’ final at the ACC Championships with a time of 19.30. Plaschka added the top 100 butterfly mark ever by an Irish men’s swimmer during the ACC meet, touching the wall in :45.41 for an NCAA A-cut and automatic slot in the national meet. Plaschka previously set the Notre Dame 100 freestyle (:42.78) last season.
Zach Yeadon etched his name into three places on the Notre Dame record book during his freshman season. His runner-up time of 4:12.74 in the 500 freestyle at the ACC Championships was good for the fastest in Irish history and a silver medal. Yeadon added his second silver finish at the ACC meet with a time of 14:34.60 in the 1650 freestyle, with his 8:51.16 1000 free split also on the top of the all-time Notre Dame list.
Rob Whitacre has enjoyed a standout senior season for the Irish in the backstroke, putting his name on the top 100 and 200 back swims in program history this season. Whitacre swam a prelim time of 46.46 in the 100 backstroke at the ACC Championships before finishing seventh in the event final to extend his team mark. He was also the top seed in the 200 back at ACCs following a Notre Dame record time of 1:40.17 in his prelim session.
Off the 3-meter diving board, Joe Coumos extended his own team record with 419.80 points on his way to victory at the Shamrock Invitational. Coumos also holds the top Notre Dame score in the 1-meter dive with a score of 420.00 points in 2017.
Irish Riding High In 2018
Racking up a 9-2 record in dual meets earlier in the season, Notre Dame staked its claim as one of the top teams in the ACC on its way to a fourth-place finish at the conference championship meet. The Irish downed No. 7 Louisville (Oct. 7), No. 23 Purdue (Oct. 27) and No. 20 Florida State (Jan. 19-20) in dual action, adding a first-place result in a talented Shamrock Invitational field that featured two additional ranked foes in January and a third-place finish at a loaded Ohio State Fall Invitational last November.
In addition to the key dual victories, Notre Dame scored a fourth-place finish at the ACC Swimming and Diving Championships in February to build off its third-place result in 2017. The Irish scored 941 points during the meet, with top finishes earned in the 500 and 1650 freestyle by Zach Yeadon (second place), a runner-up result for Rob Whitacre in the 200 backstroke and a silver medal for Joe Coumos off the 1-meter diving board. Whitacre added a fourth-place result in the 200 IM to his conference meet weekend, while Justin Plaschka was fourth in the ACC in the 50 freestyle.
Tony Jones, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2012 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame softball, men's soccer and swimming and diving programs. A native of Jamestown, New York, Jones is a 2011 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and prior to arriving at Notre Dame held positions at the University of Louisiana Monroe and with the National Football League's Buffalo Bills.