SOUTH BEND, Ind, January 26. UNIVERSITY of Notre Dame men's swimming and diving coach Tim Welsh recently announced the signing of three incoming freshmen for the 2004-05 season. Graham Parker (Cherry Hill, N.J./Cherry Hill H.S. East), Rob Seery (Garden City, N.Y./Garden City H.S.), and Jay VandenBerg (Beverly Hills, Mich./Southfield Christian School) have signed national letters of intent to enroll at Notre Dame next year and join the Irish men's swimming and diving team.
"This group continues the move up the performance ladder for us," said Welsh. "As the last couple of freshman classes have come in at a pretty high level, this group will continue that move upward. This class comes in at a higher level than we were four years ago, and I think they will nicely fill the gaps left by our graduating seniors."
Parker, a 6-0, 174-pound senior, is a second-year captain of the Cherry Hill High School East swimming team. He is a three-time New Jersey state champion, having won titles in the 200 medley relay (2002), the 200 individual medley ('03), and the 400 freestyle relay ('03). Parker has earned high school All-America honors in the 100 breaststroke, 200 IM, and 200 medley relay and is a spring 2004 senior U.S. national qualifier in the 200 breaststroke with a time of 2:04.24. His other top times include 57.64 in the 100 breast, 1:53.31 in the 200 IM, and 4:01.87 in the 400 IM. Parker is a member of the Jersey Wahoos Swim Club, the same club team that current Irish assistant coach Matt Tallman competed for.
"Graham is an excellent breaststroker," said Welsh. "He comes in at the level that will allow him to be a strong competitor in the BIG EAST Conference. He will give us more strength in the breaststroke corner."
Seery, the captain of the Garden City High School swimming team, posted the 14th-fastest time in the nation for 15- and 16-year-old boys in the 1,650 freestyle in 2003, 15:39.39. He has earned All-America honors in the 200 and 500 freestyle and qualified for the 2003 national championships in the 800 free relay. Seery has earned all-state, all-Long Island, all-county, all-conference, and all-division recognition. His top times in the 1,000 (9:26.26) and 1,650 freestyle (15:35.01, done after he turned 17) would rank him as the second-quickest swimmer in Notre Dame history in both events. His other top times include 1:42.89 in the 200 free and 4:35.66 in the 500 free.
"Rob is an extremely versatile freestyler," said Welsh. "His range covers all the freestyle events. Not only his speed, but also his versatility will be of great benefit to us. We could see him anywhere in the freestyle events."
VandenBerg, a 6-0, 155-pound senior on the Southfield Christian School swimming team, boasted the 15th-quickest time in the nation for 17- and 18-year olds in the 1,650 freestyle last year, 15:32.52. He has posted senior national qualifying marks in the 800 free, 1500 free, and 1650 free. A U.S. Open qualifier in six events (400 free, 800 free, 1000 free, 1500 free, 1650 free, 400 IM), VandenBerg also holds the 16-and-under Michigan postal distance record for 3,000-yard freestyle. He was the first-place high-point finisher for boys 15-18 years old in the 2002 Michigan state long-course meet. VandenBerg's top 1,650 freestyle time of 15:32.52 has been bettered only once in the history of Notre Dame swimming, while his 9:21.76 mark in the 1,000 free would rank third on the all-time Irish list. His other top times include 4:32.38 in the 500 free and 4:04.91 in the 400 IM.
"Jay is a pure distance freestyler," said Welsh. "He will certainly strengthen our distance freestyle group. He comes in at a U.S. senior national level in those events, and he will allow us to take advantage of the flexibility of some of our other swimmers. We are thin in the distance freestyle group and adding Jay will give us a lot of versatility. Those have been signature events for us in the past; we have been a strong distance freestyling program for many years."
Welsh anticipates the addition of further recruits for the class of 2008, but is unable to comment on them at this time due to NCAA regulations.
The current Irish team, which is 4-1 this month, will return to action Saturday in a 2 p.m. (CST) dual meet at #15 Northwestern in the Norris Aquatics Center.