Oct. 6, 2005
The 2005-06 University of Notre Dame women's swimming and diving season begins on Friday, Oct. 7, with the traditional opening competition - the Dennis Stark Relays. Named for the former Irish men's and women's head coach, the relays are will be competed for the 41st time.
The women's side will feature Illinois State, Ball State, Oakland, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Valparaiso, Cleveland State and Marquette. The meet is comprised entirely of relays (along with one-meter diving) and gives all the teams a chance to ease into the 2005-06 season.
The Irish team enters a new era on Friday as well. Former All-American and 2002 graduate Carrie Nixon has taken over the reigns of the program, becoming the 28th former Notre Dame student-athlete to be a head coach at their alma mater. Nixon brings a new attitude and excitement to the program and is looking forward to getting her team in the pool competitively for the first time.
"They are good kids and they are learning how to be good leaders," Nixon says of her first team.
"They are learning how to use each other's strengths and weaknesses to their advantage. They are passionate. They love Notre Dame and want to represent Notre Dame well. They are excited with the changes and the fact that they have an input and investment in the program."
The Irish welcome back their team MVP and top swimmer from 2004-05 - junior Katie Carroll. Carroll played a part in six BIG EAST Championships a year ago (two individual, four relays) and qualified for the NCAA Championship (finishing sixth in the 400 individual medley to earn All-America honors). She will be among the team leaders once again this season and is expected to contend for the national title in the 400 IM.
Other top swimmers back for the Irish this season include -
Junior Ann Barton - free/IM/back/fly (all-BIG EAST in the 200 IM)
Junior Rebecca Grove - free (three-time BIG EAST relay champion, three-time all-BIG EAST)
Sophomore Tara Hyer - diving (BIG EAST three-meter runner up)
Sophomore Caroline Johnson - free/back (four-time BIG EAST relay champion, BIG EAST runner up in the 50 free and 100 backstroke)
Junior Ellen Johnson - free (two-time BIG EAST relay champion, two-time BIG EAST individual runner up)
Junior Jessica Stephens - fly/breast/IM (BIG EAST 200 breaststroke champion, five-time all-BIG EAST)
The Irish also welcome a talented freshman class to the team this season - a class that might be overlooked due to the off-season coaching change.
The 2005-06 freshman class -
Lucy Hirt - diving - ninth-ranked nationally as a senior, Mundelien, Ill.
Claire Hutchinson - free/IM - three-time All-American, trained with North Baltimore Aquatic Club, Baltimore, Md.
Jill Mazur - diving - gymnast background, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Christa Riggins - free - two-time All-American spring freestyle, Phoenix, Ariz.
Casey Wagner - free/fly - nationally ranked All-American as a freshman and senior, Glenshaw, Pa.
While the Dennis Stark Relays is the official start of the 2005-06 season, the Irish will not reenter the pool competitively until Oct. 28 when national power California visits the Rolfs Aquatic Center for the dual meet opener.