Women's swimmers hold commanding lead after first day of competition
By NOREEN GILLESPIE
The meet had barely started before the Irish women's swimming and diving team sent a message to the Big East.
In the second leg of the 200-yard freestyle relay, the Irish outdistanced the heat by a body length. By the end of the event, the Irish were ahead of the pack by more than a second, and secured the meet record and an NCAA consideration time of one minute, 32.01 seconds.
The relay told any Big East teams looking to contest the Irish for the 2002 title there wasn't a chance. After day one of competition, the Irish lead with 210 points, more than 100 points ahead of closest- competitor Rutgers.
"I think we're focused and where we need to be," said Irish head coach Bailey Weathers.
But the Irish had limited success in their main goal for the conference championships. Aiming to use the meet as a stepping stone to NCAA championships, Notre Dame wants to qualify as many swimmers as possible during the three-day weekend championship meet.
In the first day of competition, the Irish posted three times that will be considered for entry at the national meet.
The 200-yard freestyle relay of sophomores Katie Eckholt and Danielle Hulick and seniors Carrie Nixon and Kelly Hecking earned a consideration time with their first-place finish. Sophomore Lisa Garcia earned a consideration bid in the 200-yard individual medley, finishing in 2:02.37. The 400-yard medley relay of Hecking, Nixon, senior Allison Lloyd and sophomore Lisa D'Olier also earned a consideration time of 3.40.98.
The swimmers with consideration times won't find out if they will swim in the championship until March, but according to last year's entries, the consideration times should be fast enough to swim in the meet, Weathers said.
"We would have liked to be about two-tenths faster," Weathers said. "We have to be a little guarded, because that 200 relay is right on the bubble."
Nixon was the only swimmer to earn an automatic berth to the NCAA meet in the 50-yard freestyle. Touching the wall in 27.73, she won the event and defended her title from 1999. But she missed breaking the meet record she set in 1999 by three tenths of a second, and the finish was almost a second from her best.
"It was just real sloppy. It's good to get that automatic time out of the way ... But I've definitely got a lot of areas to improve in," Nixon said.
The Irish qualified more swimmers for finals than any other team at the meet, securing their hold on the top position.
Divers led the evening, with sophomore Meghan-Perry Eaton placing second on the 1-meter board in her Big East debut. Perry-Eaton sat out her freshman season due to back injury. Senior Heather Mattingly placed fourth in the event.
In the 50-yard freestyle, six Notre Dame swimmers qualified for finals in the event. Following Nixon, senior Brooke Davey and Eckholt placed sixth and seventh. Sophomore Danielle Hulick won the consolation heat, followed by freshmen Hannah Pawlewicz and Heidi Hendrick in ninth and 10th.
The 200-yard individual medley was also a strong event for the Irish. Following Garcia's second-place finish, Lloyd was seventh, sophomore Marie Labosky was eighth, sophomore Amy Deger was ninth, D'Olier was 14th and senior Maureen Hillenmeyer was 15th.
The competition continues today with preliminaries at 10:30 a.m. and finals at 6:30 p.m. The challenge in getting through the weekend will be to stay focused, said co-captain Tara Riggs.
"We have to remember this is a long meet," Riggs said. "We have to re-focus every session. Most of all, if we have disappointing swims, we have to put it out of our minds."
Contact Noreen Gillespie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All Sports Stories for Friday, February 22, 2002