Oct. 14, 2013
So often in the world of sports, a team's ultimate won-loss record is the measure of success. The attitude that there is no such thing as a moral victory may indeed be appropriate in certain venues, but in the case of high level collegiate swimming and diving, a team's dual meet record can be somewhat deceiving.
That is the situation the University of Notre Dame men's swimming and diving team finds itself in after the opening weekend of competition on the 2013-14 schedule. The Irish were third of five teams at last Friday's 49th annual Dennis Stark Relays, and lost a pair of hard-fought dual meet decisions the following day to defending NCAA champion Michigan and 2013 national top-10 team Auburn at Rolfs Aquatic Center.
Still, the smile on the face of Notre Dame head coach Tim Welsh Monday clearly told a much different story than what you might expect.
"I would give it two thumbs way up, we swam very well, and I think even without factoring in the first of this, first of that, the freshmen, take away all of that," Welsh said. "We just performed very well. They were both very encouraging meets for us. We were looking for fast times, and if you look at the NCAA top 50, there is only one event that we competed in this weekend where we are not ranked in the top 50, and we have seven times in the top 10. What a glorious start."
In fact, Welsh could not recall seeing as competitive a racing environment during an in-season home event since arriving at Notre Dame in 1985.
"If you look at our history, Saturday's dual meet was the fastest ever held in this pool in 29 years," he said. "And as of now, it's the fastest meet in the country this year. It may be the fastest dual meet we swim in all year. We jumped in the deep end, but we're glad we did."
Michigan showed why it is one of the best teams in the country during the weekend's swimming, breaking a total of six men's pool records at the Rolfs Aquatic Center. At each and every turn, Irish swimmers answered the call.
Junior All-American Zach Stephens turned in the second-fastest 200 breast time in the nation this season with his gold medal heat of 1:59.91 Saturday. Stephens added the ninth-best 200 IM swim of the young season (1:49.43) in the dual meet against Michigan and Auburn.
Senior two-time All-American Frank Dyer was equally up to the task, winning the 100 free at the dual meet with a time of 44.34, 0.28 seconds off the fastest national time this year (logged in a record setting 400 free relay effort at the meet by Michigan's John Wojciechowski). Dyer and Michael Wynalda posted the top two times thus far this season in the 200 free, with the Wolverine product narrowly edging Dyer 1:37.31 to 1:37.42. The Notre Dame standout added the eighth-fastest NCAA swim to date in the 100 fly (48.55) during the meet.
Freshman Joseph Coumos also got in on the winning act, sweeping both the 1 and 3-meter diving events in his first start at Notre Dame. The Tomball, Texas, native scored 328.25 points off the 1-meter board and added a winning total of 354.90 in the 3-meter dive.
"One thing that the guys did this weekend was redefine what normal may mean for the program this year, and they redefined it at a very high level," Welsh said. "We expected to be fast, but did we expect to go as fast as we did in every event? Maybe not, but we knew the possibility was there. Nobody did anything this weekend that was more than what we thought they could do, and we were thrilled to see them do it.
"If you say is Frank capable of this, is Zach capable of this, and is John Williamson capable of that? Absolutely. And then freshman Joe Coumos, first big-time collegiate meet fresh out of high school and he wins both boards. Welcome to Notre Dame, we're glad you're here."
The Irish will have a full week off on the meet schedule before traveling to Colorado Springs, Colo. for a week of training at the United States Olympic Training Center. Notre Dame will then make the trek to Air Force on Oct. 25 for an 8 p.m. (ET) dual meet.
"What will make this a very clean transition is Air Force is a totally different game, and it will be totally different because we will train at all altitude for a whole week," Welsh said. "When we leave the Olympic Training Center and go to Air Force, we will be up 2,000 more feet. We could be very tired, or we could swim well and feel great, we could have trouble getting out of a chair, we just don't know.
"When we get to Air Force and stand up on the blocks, as we did this weekend, we are going to race with all of our heart and see where we are. At the end of that meet, it will be no excuses, no apologies, here's where we are."
-- Tony Jones, Athletic Media Relations Assistant