Oct. 6, 2016
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame swimming and diving team open its 2016-17 home schedule with meets on Friday and Saturday at the Rolfs Aquatic Center. The Irish play host to the 52nd annual Dennis Stark Relay at 5 p.m. EDT Friday and return to action at 11 a.m. EDT Saturday with duals against Oakland (men) and Indiana State (women).
“We’re really excited to race at home; that’s always a good thing to us,” says head coach Mike Litzinger. “We always respond well to that, and I think our teams are looking to continue the work they’ve put in at practice.”
The Stark Relays – a relay-only meet – are the second non-traditional meet the team has competed at in as many weeks, after beating both Michigan State and Iowa last weekend in a long-course meet, which was swam outdoors in meters as opposed to yards. The women’s squad upended the Spartans and Hawkeyes by scores of 169-54 and 154-69, respectively. The men were equally impressive – registering victories of 159-62 and 151-72. Notre Dame captured 20 of the 24 events.
Friday’s meet is named after Dennis Stark, the first head coach of both the men and women’s program -- who passed away in 2014 at the age of 91.
“With the Stark Relays, it’s a wonderful way to honor Coach Stark and to officially begin the season by having our first home meet be in his honor,” says Litzinger. “I’ve had the opportunity to communicate with quite a few alumni, and many have written back wishing the team good luck this weekend – these are alumni from the Stark era.
“It’s a different meet format, but it’s an NCAA approved format, and it’s fun to break out of the normal dual-meet doldrums. You have a chance to swim different lineups, for example three butterfliers on one relay, or put together several different kids that will swim their off-events to go as fast as they can. It’s fun to have those options, and to put different people together and see what they can do. Of course everyone is racing to put good times up, and for us, it’s just a good start to the year.”
This year’s Irish team boasts a new attitude, something that developed throughout last season. Litzinger is quick to credit many different members of the team for the new atmosphere.
“Looking at athletes to watch this weekend, our men’s senior class as a whole – and Catherine Mulquin and Danielle Margheret on the women’s team – are all a very talented group that are doing a great job,” Litzinger says. “The men are racing to show that we have a change in mentality this year. They’ve stuck out with great performances so far, and they’ve come together to make a statement of leadership for the team. Trent (Jackson), Reed (Fujan), Kevin (Bradley) and Joe (Coumos) are all doing some really nice things for us early in the year.
“On the women’s squad, we have a great injection of new talent with our underclassmen. Abbie Dolan made herself known to the world last weekend at Michigan State, and Meaghan O’Donnell is another athlete coming into her own. As coaches, we’re really looking forward to seeing how our team performs in the upcoming meets.”
Fans can follow live results of the meet on both team Twitter accounts, @NDWSwimDive and @NDMensswimdive, and a full meet recap will be posted on und.com after both days.