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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Irish to host final home meet of year in Shamrock Invitational

For Coach Mike Litzinger’s swimming and diving team, training and competing during a pandemic has been a challenge, but it is one that they were more than willing to take on. To start the year off, the team had to deal with a limited number of personnel on deck and a finite amount of swimmers in each lane; as of late, though, practices have been improving. As the winter days brought cold and snowy weather to South Bend, it  also brought the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams back to Notre Dame's campus. Head coach Mike Litzinger notes that being on campus with just the team has allowed them to form a “training bubble.”

With this bubble formed, the team has been able to host meetings and increase interaction amongst teammates and coaches. As individualistic a sport as swimming and diving can be, the team aspect is also crucial. Litzinger said the ability to interact more has bolstered team morale and is important heading into the ACC Championships.

The ups and downs of this season aside, Litzinger’s team continues to grow as athletes and as individuals with the lessons they will take away from this abnormal year. Now in his sixth season as the Irish head coach, Litzinger expressed that he has learned so much from this pandemic. With this year being as unprecedented as it is, the focus on leadership from within his team has been at an all-time high. Everyone is dealing with the pandemic in different ways, and he has been most impressed with how the seniors have stepped up.

“I think when they take ownership of [the planning], they're more invested,” Litzinger said of his upperclassmen. 

With the ACC Championships just a few weeks away in mid-February, Litzinger highlighted that this weekend’s Shamrock Invitational is a rehearsal for the big meet. For the men’s and women’s teams, each gets to bring 18 swimmers and three divers to the postseason event. Litzinger pointed out that the coaches “have a good idea of what that the squad looks like, but this [weekend’s Shamrock Invitational] solidifies the last few spots.”

The Shamrock Invitational will hold different meanings to the team. For those cusp swimmers, this will be a weekend of opportunity. In their last home outing, everyone will be pushing themselves to improve a team with dreams of an ACC Championship.

For the seniors, this will be their last meet in Rolfs Aquatic Center. With the sadness that comes with saying goodbye, Coach Litzinger wanted to illustrate the importance of this senior class by talking about how they are the “most resilient” group he has ever coached.

When NCAAs were canceled last year, many of the Class of 2021 were stunned. To have worked so hard to reach their goals, and have it all taken away, Litzinger said this group had to become mentally tough. During the pandemic, many members of this class were forced to step away from the sport.

Coach Lizenger is most impressed with the way they came back to the pool in the fall. Rather than sulking over feeling bad about the missed opportunity of the NCAAs, they spent it “refining their love for” the sport. Adversity being seemingly everywhere for the class of 2021, Litzinger summed up their fight and resiliency.

"We're going to take it right to the end, and I'm so very proud of this group of seniors,” he said.

The Shamrock Invitational begins Thursday and will go through Saturday with events taking place throughout each day.