EAST MEADOW, NY, February 19. SOPHOMORE Katie Carroll (Toledo, Ohio/Notre Dame Academy) assured herself a second consecutive invitation to the NCAA Championships as the University of Notre Dame women’s swimming and diving team won three events en route to opening up a 104-point lead in the BIG EAST Championships Friday evening in the Nassau County Aquatic Center, according to Irish sources.
The Irish, who have 503 points with one day and seven events remaining, have 503 points, while Rutgers and Pittsburgh are tied for second with 399.
Carroll, who did not swim the race en route to being tabbed the meet’s Most Outstanding Swimmer in 2004, won the 400-yard individual medley by more than five seconds, with an NCAA automatic-qualifying time of 4:15.55. It was the Notre Dame sophomore’s fastest yards time as a collegian, as well as the second-fastest yards time ever by an Irish student- Coming into this week, only four Division I swimmers had posted faster times than 4:15.55 this season. Carroll, who was named honorable mention All-America last year after taking 14th at NCAAs in the race, continued her record of being unbeaten in individual competition in the BIG EAST meet.
Thus far, she has been the top qualifier and the first-place finisher in all five individual events in which she has competed during her career. Her résumé puts her in elite company, as one of just four Irish student-athletes to have five individual BIG EAST championships, joining 2002 graduates Kelly Hecking and Carrie Nixon and ’00 grad Shannon Suddarth. Notre Dame has now boasted the 400 IM champ in each of the last three years. Marie Labosky won the title in both 2003 and ’04.
For the second day in a row, Ellen Johnson came up second in her quest for her first BIG EAST title. Friday the Notre Dame sophomore was just out touched by .14 seconds by West Virginia freshman Maritza Paredes. Nonetheless, Johnson broke the six-year-old school record in the event, ending in a time of 1:49.20 that was .09 seconds better than the previous Irish record of 1:49.29, set by Kristen Van Saun at the 1999 BIG EAST meet. It was an NCAA “B” time for Johnson.
Another Friday highlight was 2004 Olympian and junior Christel Bouvron (Singapore, Singapore/Raffles Girls’ Secondary School) winning her first BIG EAST championship, in the 100 butterfly with a time of 54.75 that was good for an NCAA “B” cut. She topped runner-up Sarah Bicknell of Rutgers by .58 seconds after being second in 2003 and eighth a year ago. Sophomore Jessica Stephens (Bloomsburg, Pa./Bloomsburg H.S.) earned all-BIG EAST honors finishing third in the 100 fly at 55.86.
Notre Dame reclaimed its tradition of dominance in the 400 medley relay, as freshman Caroline Johnson (Springfield, Mo./Glendale H.S.), Stephens, Bouvron, and Carroll combined for an NCAA “B” time of 3:42.80 that was good for a nearly-two-second victory over Rutgers in the race. It was the seventh time in 10 years – but the first since 2002 – that Notre Dame finished first in the race, and the Irish time had been topped by just 10 teams in the country prior to this week. The victory continued Carroll’s perfect meet, giving her five titles in five events this week. She now has nine career BIG EAST titles to her credit, placing her fourth on that list, behind only Hecking (19), Nixon (18), and 2000 graduate Elizabeth Barger (11).
Caroline Johnson led the Irish in the 100 backstroke with a collegiate-best mark of 55.52 that was good for a runner-up result and an NCAA “B” cut.
Carroll led a strong overall performance in the 400 IM, as sophomore Ann Barton (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain H.S.) – who also did not swim the race in 2004 – ended up fifth with a time of 4:24.83, and her classmate, Kiley Gooch (Carmel, Ind./Carmel H.S.), was right behind with a sixth-place time of 4:26.47. Taylor won the consolation final with a season-best time of 4:25.18 that was quicker than three swimmers in the championship final.