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Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024
The Observer

"There's a greater ND we want to swim for": Irish seniors reflect on upcoming Tim Welsh Classic

Notre Dame swim and dive is preparing for the annual Tim Welsh Classic and senior meet, coming off a successful tri-meet against Navy and Princeton earlier in the month. The two-day competition will close out the 2022-23 home season and turn the page for the Irish to gear up for the fast-approaching ACC and NCAA championships.

This meet honors Tim Welsh, the former 29-year Irish head swim coach who passed away in June 2021. Irish swimmers take this memorial to heart, both in and out of the pool. 

“When you swim at this meet, you can definitely feel that you’re swimming for something greater than yourself,” senior Nick Chase said. 

Teams in attendance will include Ohio State, the Akron women’s team and Indiana State. The Buckeyes are projected to be fierce competitors against the Irish, and the non-ACC competition adds a nice variety to the pool.

“It’s just nice to race other people that we usually don’t race in the ACCs and just have fun doing it with a different outlook on the sport of swimming,” senior Sydney Winters said.

After coming off of an intense training camp in Florida over winter break, Irish swimmers are just now starting to find their speed as the championship season begins to creep up. Winters cites the positivity instilled in the swimmers by the coaching staff for the team's increased confidence in competition. 

“Just going in as a team, I think a lot of the swimmers and divers are just way more confident than in the past,” Winters said. “I think a lot of people are just more excited to see what they can do compared to the past few years.”

According to Chase, it’s been “nose to the grindstone” the past few weeks in terms of training. Though this meet will provide the Irish with a chance to get off the block in a competitive-race format, the main focus is about swimming for Tim — and the Irish’s 19 seniors. The community will rally around the seniors as they are recognized for their efforts and dedication over the past four years. 

“This holds a special place in our hearts since it's a community-based event,” Winters said. “A lot of parents come in, a lot of friends and family. It's a nice meet to get all together.” 

Three school record holders make up this senior group in Coleen Gillilan, Jack Hoagland and Cason Wilburn. A resilient class, the class of 2023 has had to overcome the pandemic and major staffing changes among Notre Dame swim and dive. 

“We’ve been through a lot here as a class at Notre Dame, and to see that we all finish together is definitely going to be a nice memory we will have forever,” Winters said. 

A last career home meet is a bittersweet topic for Winters and Chase. Along with the 17 other seniors, they are starting to reflect and take note of the little things that will soon be gone. 

“I think that in my mind and a lot of seniors' minds, we aren’t looking forward to moving on,” Chase said. “We look forward to practicing everyday and we’re excited to continue to race and finish out the season strong. It’ll be bittersweet at the end, and it's something that you start to cherish a little bit more as the end of swimming at Notre Dame comes near. Especially as you start to hit the final tally marks.”

The Irish seniors are prepared to make this final mark a memorable one. Competition begins at 10 a.m. on Friday morning. A Friday 5 p.m. session will follow, and a Saturday 11 a.m. session will close out the meet.