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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

Top athletes travel to West Lafayette, Indiana, to represent ACC in dual-conference meet

This weekend, 10 Notre Dame athletes will split from their team and travel to West Lafayette, Indiana, to compete alongside the top performers from the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The ACC/Big Ten Swimming and Diving Challenge is a two-day meet that pits the top competition from the ACC against the best from the Big Ten Conference. Irish head coach Mike Litzinger worked with several other ACC coaches to organize a roster of top conference athletes.

In the 2018 edition of the ACC/Big Ten challenge, Purdue will host the top athletes from both conferences at the Morgan J. Burke Aquatic Center, with competition opening Saturday.

The ACC roster includes 84 swimmers and 20 divers from 12 schools. Ten athletes will represent Notre Dame, five on the men’s side and five from the women’s team.

In the women’s competition, the Irish have four swimmers competing — senior Nikki Smith, junior Abbie Dolan and sophomores Carly Quast and Lindsay Stone — and sophomore Kelly Straub will dive from the platform for the Irish.

“Certainly, Abbie Dolan will be someone to keep your eye on. Lindsay Stone as well,” Litzinger said.

Dolan was named the ACC swimmer of the week Nov. 5 after her home performance against Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech. She strung together seven first-place finishes in the two-day dual meet at Rolfs Aquatic Center as the Irish swept the Hokies and the Panthers. Of her seven top finishes, three came in individual events.

Stone, a sophomore from Pittsford, New York, took first in the 500-yard freestyle during the dual meet against Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech.

For the men’s team, freshman Marton Barta, juniors Jack Montesi and Aaron Schultz and sophomores Sadler McKeen and Zach Yeadon will swim for Notre Dame.

“Of course, Zach Yeadon will certainly be a big part of this meet,” Litzinger said. “He is a premier distance athlete in the ACC.”

Yeadon put together a dominant performance last weekend, setting a pool record of 8:58.55 in the 1,000-yard freestyle, good for the second-fastest time in the country. Yeadon also took first place in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:20.34, breaking his own pool record that he set last season.

Litzinger said Barta has also impressed to this point in the season. Barta, a native of Szombathely, Hungary, posted a pool record of 3:49.75 in the 400-yard IM last weekend at Rolfs Aquatic center. His 400 IM time currently leads the nation.

Litzinger said the best athletes from each conference will participate in the meet. He added that his diver and swimmers from Notre Dame are deserving of their roster spots in this meet, and he expects to see great performances this weekend.

“They earn their spot by being an elite athlete in our conference,” Litzinger said. “We’re going to race as hard as we can. … I think we’re in that spot in the season where we’ll see some pretty good times.”

Litzinger will serve as the men’s team’s assistant coach along with North Carolina State’s Braden Holloway. He said he is excited to see a high level of competition from all the ACC athletes at the meet.

“I think it’s going to be really great for the athletes,” Litzinger said. “Instead of being in an adversarial situation, it will be a team-building experience. It’s two of the fastest leagues in the country, and you’re going to see some great college swimming.”

The Irish competitors will look to be part of that greatness this weekend. The team will return Nov. 15 to represent the Irish at the Ohio State Fall Invitational in their final competition of the calendar year.