Nov. 28, 1997
Freshmen Make Impact in Pool
By Gene Brtalik
NOTRE DAME, Ind.--In most college sports when freshmen are recruited, they are brought in to be strengthened so they may be utilized during junior and senior years. Such is the case in football, when many freshmen are redshirted to gain an extra year of eligibility after senior year. One sport where the class you are in doesn't matter how much you participate is swimming.
A prime example is Notre Dame men's swimming team with two freshmen, Dan Szilier and James Scott-Browne, stepping into the forefront. Both swimmers have quickly assumed roles that will enable the team capture a top three finish in the BIG EAST Championships this year.
Szilier came to Notre Dame with the expectation of further developing his swimming skills and achieving a degree in finance to someday work on Wall Street. Throughout his high school career at Methacton he was regarded one of the best breaststrokers in the state. As a freshman Szilier was awarded the Plummer Memorial Award for most promising underclassman swimmer as well as finishing first in the 100-yard breaststroke at the conference championships. In his second year as a member of the team, Szilier finished the season undefeated in the 100-yard breaststroke. His junior and senior seasons were more of the same with his garnering high school all-state honors in the 100-yard breaststroke, 200-yard individual medley and 400-yard freestyle relay. During his last year Szilier broke four league records and six pool records.
Szilier not only excels inside the water but in the classroom as well. He was on the honor roll all four years, a member of the school's National Honor Society as a sophomore and named academic All-American as a senior.
Throughout the beginning of the 1997 season, Szilier has exhibited an excellent work ethic, trying to outdo himself each day in practice.
"He works himself extremely hard," says men's swimming coach Tim Welsh. "When Dan gets out of the pool if he can still stand he feels he hasn't worked himself hard enough."
Szilier has been known to his teammates to go beyond the call of duty when it comes to practice, doing extra laps or substituting breaststroke for freestyle to condition himself.
While Szilier concentrates on the sprint aspect of swimming, Scott-Browne takes on the distance events.
Scott-Browne, like Szilier, took his high school swim team by storm when he joined the team back in the fall of 1992. Throughout his time spent on the swim team at Seattle Preparatory School, Scott-Browne set records in the 200-yard, 500-yard, 1500-yard, and 1650-yard freestyle events. As a sophmore and a junior, Scott-Browne was selected as an All-American in the 500 freestyle and also has recorded a career best time of 4:27.86, eight seconds faster than the Notre Dame record set by Mike Keely in 1993.
Scot-Browne quickly made his presence felt in Notre Dame's season-opening dual-meet win over Western Ontario, beating the four-year old 1000-yard freestyle record of 9:36.75 set by Mike Kelley with a time of 9:35.93. He also placed first in the 500-yard freestyle and then entered the next race and finished second in the 200-yard backstroke.
"James looks so graceful and smooth when he swims, and wonders why can't everyone swim this way," says Welsh.
During practice, Scott-Browne will often try to go very hard in order to encourage his teammates to follow in his ways. He also is there to aid people in their strokes and bring a positive attitude to the team.
"The two of them are young, enthusiastic and energetic," says Welsh. "They both achieved great success in high school and are very skilled. We have great expectations for the both of them."
As the BIG EAST championships draw closer, Welch will count on these two freshmen to aid the team. Welch has a four-part plan for Szilier and Scott-Browne.
"First, I want them to strengthen us in the dual meets," says Welsh. "Then I want them to challenge for individual honors at the BIG EASTS, next I would like them to qualify for NCAA's and for us to earn some points and finally, I would like to see them break some university records."
As for the records, Scott-Browne has already wrote his name into the Notre Dame record books by besting his own record in the 1000 freestyle with a 9:25.74 in a dual meet versus Air Force and West Virginia on Nov. 21.
"For now though I am focusing on the 1650 an event in which I have a good chance at qualifying for the NCAA's," says Scott-Browne.
Szilier, on the other hand, is inching closer and closer to beating the record in both the 100 and 200-yard breaststroke. "These are definitely goals I can see myself achieving," says Szilier.
Scott-Browne and Szilier will both turn heads this year as the Irish look to achieve their goal of a top three finish at the BIG EAST Championship.