On the final day of the Big East Championships, the Louisville Men waited until the last minute to take the lead and win their first Big East Championship ever, and the Notre Dame Women pulled ahead to win their 14th in-a-row.
The Men’s Meet
Coming into the final day of competition, the Notre Dame men had a narrow 5 point lead over Louisville. Notre Dame started the swimming portion of the meet with a huge 75 point lead over the Cardinals thanks to a great performance by their divers. Slowly and methodically, the Louisville Cardinals men had been chipping into the lead, but Notre Dame just barely was hanging on. It set up for a very exciting final day where the two teams traded leads back and forth.
First, in the 1650 free, Louisville’s Riley Martin took an easy win in 15:17.41. His teammates Michael Pryor and Shane Lichtenberg finished third and fourth, ahead of Notre Dame’s top finisher Andrew Deters in fifth. This jumped Louisville into their first lead of the meet by a ver precarious 10 points.
Notre Dame would take the lead again in the 200 backstroke. Louisville got a second place finish from Pedro Olivera, but Notre Dame had 4 ‘A” finalists: Petar Petrovic (4th), Michael Sullivan (6th), Christopher Willis (7th), and Joshua Nosal (8th) to put them in front by 19 points. The winner of the event was Kevin Webster of Seton Hall, who was the biggest bright spot of the meet for his team. His winning time was 1:44.41.
Cincinnati’s Josh Schneider won his third individual event, and broke his third Big East meet record, in the 100 freestyle, with a 43.00. John Lytle of Notre Dame finished well back in second in 43.56, but Louisville got third, fourth, and seventh place finishes as well to cut the Cardinals’ lead down to single-digits.
In the 200 breaststroke, 5 out of the 8 A-finalists swam for either of the contendors. Louisville’s Carlos Almeida shaved 6.1 seconds off of his preliminary time to win the event. Louisville also got sixth, seventh, and thirteenth place finishes, to Notre Dame’s fifth, eighth, and fourteenth places, which gave them a 13 point lead.
The last individual event of the meet, the 200 fly, was a make-or-break event for Notre Dame. If they wanted to have a chance headed into the final relay, they would need to get within at least 8 points. Unfortunately for them, Louisville’s Pedro Olivera (1:45.35) led a 1-3-6-10 finish for the Cardinals, which put the meet out of reach, even with a disqualification in the relay.
The Louisville quartet of Brandon Andrews, Kristopher Findorff, Carlos Almeida, and Carlos Van Isschot finished off the meet with a win in the 400 free relay in 2:56.87.
Josh Schneider of Cincinnati, who broke 3 Big East Championship records in 3 individual events, was named the Big East Swimmer of the Year. Schneider has quietly emerged as one of the best swimmers in the nation this season, and will be one of the favorites to win the 50 and 100 freestyles, as well as the 100 fly, at the NCAA championships. Schneider is also a leading candidate for NCAA Swimmer of the Year.
Arthur Albeiro, head coach at Louisville, won the Big East Coac of the Year award for leading his team to their first ever Big East Title.
1. Louisville, 808
2. Notre Dame, 758
3. Pittsburgh, 535
4. West Virginia, 442
5. Cincinnati, 305
6. Connecticut, 288.5
7. Seton Hall, 184.5
8. Georgetown, 133
9. Villanova, 108
10. Providence, 70
11. Syracuse, 32
The Final day of the Women’s meet was much less dramatic, than the men’s, although there were still some great races. The West Virginia women, who finished in third overall, showed that they definitely have strength at the top of their lineup, if not the depth of Louisville and Notre Dame, by winning three of the final four events of the meet. Although Notre Dame had won 13 straight Big East titles coming into the meet, their 14th was still an upset, as Louisville (no. 14) was ranked much higher than the Irish (no. 42) in the final CSCAA poll.
The 1650 freestyle was led by two freshman who are likely to be battling for a while in the Big East. The winner was Hayley Edwards of Villanova in 16:20.39, and Kelsey Herbst of Pitt finished second. In fact, 10 out of the 16 scorers in the women’s mile were freshman, which is a great sign for the future strength of the conference.
The 200 backstroke saw another freshman winner, this time Kimberly Holden of Notre Dame. Her winning time of 1:55.79 gave her a huge margin of victory over second place finisher Morgan Callaway of West Virginia, who went a 1:56.99.
Contrary to the first two events, the 100 free was dominated by the elder swimmers of the conference. Kayla Andrews, a senior at West Virginia, won the race in 48.49, which is one of the top times in the nation this season. Amywren Miller of Notre Dame finished in 49.33. The A-final had 5 seniors, 2 juniors, and not a single freshman.
In the 200 breaststroke, Samantha Maxwell of Notre Dame won in 2:11.37, and Leslie Vanwinkle finished second in 2:12.02. Both of those times would have qualified them for the NCAA championships last year, and will likely qualify them again this year.
The freshmen were back at it in the 200 fly, where Mandie Nugent of West Virginia won in 1:58.16. She was followed by Edwards of Villanova, also a freshman, and Kathryn Casey of Notre Dame. The fourth place finisher, Rachael Burnett of West Virginia, was also a freshman.
The West Virginia 400 free relay finished off a very successful meet for the mountaineers by winning and setting a Big East Championship record in 3:17.72. The gold medalists in the event were Shaunna Purtell, Rachael Burnett, Morgan Callaway, and Kayla Andrews. The Louisville relay, which included 3 out of the 4 women who had previously held the record from last year’s championship, finished in second place at 3:20.00.
After all of the dust had settled, Notre Dame won the meet with 773.5 points, ahead of Louisville in second at 718.
Although the Big East is not one of the more heralded conferences in swimming, they are definitely a conference to watch in coming seasons. The medal stands at this meet were littered with freshman, and the conference should continue to get stronger.
Notre Dame’s Samantha Maxwell was named the Big East Swimmer of the Year at the end of the meet. Maxwell won the breaststroke double, including an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 59.64 in the 100. Maxwell also had the best breaststroke split in the 400 medley by over a second to lead her team to a win in that event, as well as the 200 medley.
Maxwell’s coach Brian Barnes was named the Women’s Coach of the Year.
Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com.
He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming.
Aside from his life on the InterWet, …