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Saturday, June 22, 2024
The Observer

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Notre Dame swim and dive cements a name in the swimming world after historic season

Men’s team places 10th in the country, women notch 32nd overall

Notre Dame swim and dive surged onto the national scene this year with historic performances, and the teams are only continuing to aim higher. The men’s team saw a second-place finish at the ACC Championships and took a 10th-place finish at the NCAA Championships, shattering previous program finishes. The women’s team also underwent significant growth compared to past years, marking a substantial stride in the right direction of becoming a top-tier program.

Led by Guiliano’s prowess and powerhouse relays, men’s team makes history 

Resiliency is what head swim and dive coach Chris Lindauer said when asked about the key component of this season’s success.

“There’s no other program in the country that has had the growth rate of our men’s team,” Lindauer said. “To go from 33rd to 18th to 10th in the country, it’s pretty cool to see.”

The Irish set the tone at the start of the season with early dual meet wins, going on to what would be a perfect dual meet slate the entire season. 

“If you look at the dual meet season, we were undefeated,” Lindauer said. “We had a lot of moments during those dual meets where our resiliency was tested through adversity, but we responded again and again.”

Dual meets laid the groundwork for the success that would come during the championship season. With a multi-faceted squad, the Irish saw a historic second-place finish following a record-breaking performance at ACCs. 

The most exciting race of Notre Dame’s ACC meet was the 400 freestyle relay, where the quartet of junior Chris Guiliano, graduate student Tanner Filion, sophomore Tommy Janton and graduate student Abdelrahman El-Araby went 2:45.58 to bring home the gold. This performance placed Notre Dame as one of eight schools to post a 400 freestyle relay time of 2:45 or faster and was a fond memory for the entire team.

“Winning the 400 free relays at ACCs was a very special moment for the four guys swimming that but also for everyone on the side of the pool and back home,” Guiliano said. “It was just an incredible atmosphere to be a part of. Everyone going wild for that was a proud moment for me and the team.”

Building on this momentum, the Irish saw a 10th-place finish at NCAAs that sealed a historic season. 

“Last year on the men’s side, we had one relay that scored, ” Lindauer said. This year, we were able to close that gap much more. We had two relays in the top eight for the first time in program history, which makes for massive points.”

Guiliano said the men knew this could be done.

“We knew we could get top two at ACCs and top 10 at NCAAs,” Giuliano said. “We knew a lot of people were going to doubt us for that but it fueled our fire. We knew we had the talent to do something our program had never done before, but nobody else did.”

As a sprint freestyler, Guiliano carried the team this year and added many accomplishments to his swimming resume. He was a five-time First Team All-American this season, setting conference records in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle and sweeping ACCs with these events. Guiliano also holds the school record in all five relay events. A promising candidate for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team, Guiliano was named ACC Swimmer of the Year and the recipient of the team’s Most Valuable Swimmer award.

With a stellar season behind him, Guiliano is ready for his next chapter — training for the Olympic Trials.

“I think there’s a lot of benefits to training short course,” Giuliano said. “Now being able to shift my focus from short course to long course, I couldn’t be more pumped or excited to have this next training block leading up to trials.”

Other elite members of the team included Tommy Janton, school record-holder in the 100 and 200 backstroke as well as the 400 medley and freestyle relays. Janton was called upon in a number of spots throughout the year, helping put major points up in the postseason. Fellow backstrokers Filion and sophomore Marcus Gentry made multiple finals at the ACC Championships and were critical in Notre Dame’s NCAA Championships. 

On the diving board, sophomore Benedict Nguyen shined for the men with 78 points notched for the Irish at ACCs. Nguyen earned a bronze medal in the platform at ACC’s while also finishing fourth in the 1-meter and fifth in the 3-meter. His performance punched him a ticket to his first NCAAs as well. Fellow sophomore Daniel Knapp also added points in the diving well, finishing sixth in the 1-meter at ACC Championships. Knapp earned All-America Honorable Mention status in the men’s 1-meter with a 15th-place at NCAAs. 

Continuously preaching the three areas of “energy, effort and attitude,” Lindauer and the coaching staff helped guide the men to a historic season. But, there is no stopping now, as the emphasis is on maintaining the momentum and aiming even higher for next year. 

“Our men need to work on continuing to level up — doing everything well we did this year and doing it 1% better,” Lindauer said. “Why can’t we start talking about being in the top five? We have to. This year when we were second, you bet we were talking about how we can win ACCs next year. We have to have that mindset and start thinking about that.”

Women’s team finds its groove and sets the bar for future seasons 

After adjusting to the new staff last year, the women’s team began to increase momentum this year. Placing 32nd at NCAAs this year marked progress — the stepping stone on which it will continue to build on.

“I’m proud of the overall growth we’ve had as a team with the way we are believing in what we can do and understanding that this is a team that can be world-class and top-10,” Lindauer said.

According to junior Madelyn Christman, the women’s team was able to find its groove following their annual training trip. She felt the Navy-Princeton tri-meet was a time that encompassed the unity forming among the team. 

“That meet was a time where we shifted our mindset and how we acted as a team,” Christman said. “We really gelled well together, and that was super fun to be a part of. Relays at that meet were so fun and so was doing [it] at our home pool too, having everyone to cheer us on.”

Christman was a major contributor to the team’s success, having been named Most Valuable Swimmer by the Irish. Christman scored 40 individual points in her ACC backstroke events after winning six individual events throughout the regular season. She set the school record in the 100-meter backstroke in November and made her first NCAA Championships in the 200 backstroke. 

Fellow junior Maggie Graves also made the NCAA team, placing 28th in the nation in the 1650 freestyle with a time ranking second in program history. Graves consistently posted multiple best times in the distance freestyle events throughout the season and put crucial points on the board at ACCs.

Divers were also key to the women’s final scoring placements. Most Valuable Diver Calie Brady was a finalist in both events at ACCs and competed in her third NCAA Championships. The junior earned All-America Honorable Mention status in the 3-meter event with an 11th-place finish. Sophomore Grace Courtney made her first appearance at NCAAs and placed fourth in the 1-meter at ACCs. 

“There was a lot of tremendous growth,” Lindauer said. “To have three athletes who never made the meet go and perform well there was really good. The year before I was there we were 33rd, last year we didn’t score and this year we were 32nd. That’s progress. Of course, we are aiming for more, but the biggest thing we are looking for in the future is relays. We have to bring a unit to this meet.”

Brady emphasized what it meant for the divers to score for the team.

“Most of the points are from swimmers, and we want to show that we can score a lot of points, too,” Brady said. “Especially at conferences, I think [Notre Dame] diving as a whole scored the most points out of all the dive teams. It feels good to score for something bigger than ourselves. We are putting [up] points for the whole team, and it’s great to be such a great contributor as divers.”

Head diving coach Mark Bradshaw was a key factor in the success of this year’s divers with an energetic personality and strict attention to detail. “Pops” — as he is affectionately known by his divers — has helped the team level up.

“I give all my collegiate credit to Mark. He has made me such a better diver and competitor, and he fills us with such passion,” Brady said. “He’s more than just a coach — Pops may be a funny nickname, but that’s him to the core. We are all very close to him, and he wants to see us succeed. He really has a connection with each and every one of us that is super personal.”

Despite being at different points in their programs, both squads walk away with another season under their belts and a greater spotlight in the swimming world. Lindauer expressed his pride for the season, placing emphasis that both the men and the women are looking to continue to level up for next year. 

“I’m just extremely proud of the two squads and the growth we have had the past two years,” Lindauer said. “Words can’t describe what is happening here. To go from really irrelevant in the swimming world to where we are now is awesome … It’s a process, and a lot of the leadership and the expectations they set will not only impact this season but the next couple seasons and beyond. That’s a legacy.”