Illinois Battles Notre Dame, Michigan in Two Day Event in South Bend

NOTRE DAME, IN, January 16. FIFTH-YEAR senior All-American Meghan Perry-Eaton (Brandon, Fla./Bloomingdale H.S.) broke her own pool record for one-meter diving in a championship-style meet to help the 21st-ranked University of Notre Dame women's swimming and diving team (4-2) rally for a 54-53 lead against Illinois (3-2) Friday evening in the Rolfs Aquatic Center, Notre Dame reports.

The final two sessions of the championship-style meet – which also features #13 Michigan competing against the Fighting Illini – were held on Saturday.

Perry-Eaton continued to be dominant in the diving well, finishing with a six-dive score of 316.30 that was just better than the previous pool record of 315.25 that she set in the 2003 Notre Dame Invitational. The Irish senior, the 2003 and '04 BIG EAST Championships Most Outstanding Diver who finished third off the one-meter board at last year's NCAA Championships, won the event by nearly 12 points over Michigan freshman Elyse Lee (304.50) to register her seventh first-place finish in eight one-meter competitions this season.

Overall, Perry-Eaton has won 14 of 15 events she has entered in 2004-05. Dominating in the facility is nothing new for the Brandon, Fla., native, who holds three of the four Rolfs Aquatic Center diving records (as well as four of the five Irish diving records). In fact, she is now undefeated off the one-meter board in 15 consecutive home meets, dating back to Nov. 1, 2002, when she lost by less than three points to Indiana's Sara Hildebrand.

Despite being the only unranked team in the pool, Illinois started quickly and held leads over both the Irish and Wolverines after two events. The Illini were up 27-9 against Notre Dame following the 500 freestyle, and they led their Big Ten rivals 20-16. Those advantages would both evaporate, as Michigan will begin Saturday with a 61-48 advantage.

Notre Dame did not take the lead until the final event of the evening, the 400 medley relay, which also produced the second Irish victory of the session. Freshman Caroline Johnson (Springfield, Mo./Glendale H.S.) and sophomores Jessica Stephens (Bloomsburg, Pa./Bloomsburg H.S.), Katie Carroll (Toledo, Ohio/Notre Dame Academy), and Ellen Johnson (Toledo, Ohio/Notre Dame Academy) finished in a time of 3:51.90, which was just ahead of Illinois. Michigan took third in the race, in which the Wolverines finished eighth at last year's NCAA Championships.

The Fighting Illini appeared poised to maintain a three-point overnight lead against the Irish in the team standings, but their B relay – which touched the wall in fourth place and ahead of Notre Dame's B relay – was disqualified. Therefore, the all-senior Irish relay of Kristen Peterson (Wichita, Kan./Bishop Carroll H.S.), Georgia Healey (New York, N.Y./Trinity School), Brooke Taylor (Orlando, Fla./Lake Highland Prep School), and Katie Eckholt (Omaha, Neb./Marian H.S.) – swimming in their final home meet – finished fifth overall in a time of 4:00.96, scoring two points to give the Irish their first lead.

With the team trailing by 18 points, the trio of Carroll, freshman Kelly Battle (Allison Park, Pa./North Allegheny H.S.), and sophomore Ann Barton (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain H.S.) gave Notre Dame a spark by taking second, third, and fourth, respectively in the 200 individual medley. Carroll, who finished ninth in the event at the '04 NCAA meet but had not swum it yet this season due to injuries, led the way with a time of 2:04.28 that stands as the top mark by a BIG EAST Conference competitor in 2004-05. She was just outtouched by Michigan freshman Justine Mueller, who won the event with an NCAA "B" cut of 2:04.28 and ranks 18th among Division I swimmers in the race this season. Battle bettered her collegiate best in the race by nearly two seconds, taking third in a time of 2:08.83, while Barton was next in 2:09.09.

Ellen Johnson, who came in as the top-seeded swimmer in the race, took third in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:00.05, which followed a third-place finish from the 200 freestyle relay team to lead off the meet. That came in the form of a season-best time of 1:36.36 turned in by sophomore Rebecca Grove (Yorktown Heights, N.Y./Yorktown H.S.), Eckholt, Carroll, and Caroline Johnson.

Caroline Johnson led the way in the 50 freestyle, taking sixth with a time of 24.47, while Grove was right behind her in 24.56.

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