Jake Kildoo, Staff Writer

I remember the last time I went swimming—I am not talking about splashing around in the park pool, sipping lemonade with friends in the summertime.  I mean real exercise swimming.  It lasted about 20 seconds.  I hopped into the Rolf’s pool and swam across as quickly as I could and with the best form I could muster, just praying the swim test observers would not make me swim more than one pool-length.  Fortunately, that was enough to pass the test.  But for a few select Notre Dame students, this brief display of aquatic “prowess” is hardly enough to even be called a warm-up.

This elite group of student-athletes comprises the men’s and women’s Fighting Irish Swim Teams.  Although you may not see them on dry land too often, these two squads make their presence known nation-wide, with the women’s squad currently ranked eighteenth in the country (tied) and the Men’s squad mixing it up in the top 30.  Led by head coach Tim Welsh, the men’s team has won six Big East titles—the most recent coming just a few weeks ago—while the women’s team under coach Brian Barnes has placed in the Top 3 at the Big East Championships during all 18 seasons of their membership with the conference—including second place finishes in each of the past three years.

Junior women’s team captain and All-American Kelly Ryan happily shared some of her time with the Rover to talk about the swimming program.

What event(s) do you swim?

I swim backstroke and freestyle. My best event is the 200 backstroke. I earned seventh place at NCAA’s last year in that event. My favorite events are probably the 200 backstroke and 100 freestyle. The 100 freestyle is definitely one of the most fun events for me.

Describe the Notre Dame swimming program in a few short words.

Charismatic, determined and silly.

What are your individual and team goals for this season?

We definitely achieved some of the team goals for the season already. A lot of girls had best times at the Big East Championships and we have five girls going to NCAA’s. It’s been a very exciting season. We definitely have room to improve at NCAA’s but it’s been really fun so far.

How much of swimming is team oriented versus individual oriented?

Swimming is both a team and an individual sport. There are individual races and relays, but all of the points earned by individuals go towards a team score. Everyone on our team is very team-oriented. Although it is exciting to do well individually, everyone swims with the team in mind and we all try to do our best for the team.

What is a week of training like?

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, we have swimming in the morning as well as lifting and another swim practice in the afternoon. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we have a longer practice in the afternoon. Saturday morning is usually the longest (and hardest) practice, unless we have a swim meet that day. We eat most of our meals together as well. We spend A lot of time together, but I could not ask for a better group of girls to spend that much time with.

Explain what a swimming “taper” is like and why it’s so important for swimmers.

Throughout the season, swimmers’ muscles are constantly breaking down because of the work that we do in the pool and the weight room. During taper, our coaches reduce our workload to “rest” our bodies for the biggest meet of the season, which is usually Big East or NCAA’s. Taper involves shorter practices but higher intensity to get our bodies into “race mode”. It’s the time of the season that swimmers look forward to most. Taper is always exciting especially since it means our big meets are coming up.

What do you all do to train in the offseason?

Our schedule during the offseason is pretty much exactly the same. We have the same amount of workouts, except sometimes we will substitute “dryland” (cardio and conditioning on land) for weights in the beginning of the offseason. The summer season is almost just as important as the collegiate season for swimming, so we continue to work hard the whole year. Last year, the summer was especially important because the Olympic Trials were taking place. There were a handful of us girls that made it to [the] Trials, so we got right back to work after the collegiate season so we were able to perform well [there].

In case you weren’t counting, that’s at least 9 training sessions per week—in addition to the lifts and other time spent in the training room… And I thought the swim test was intense! No wonder this elite group sends athletes to the Olympic Trials. The Irish squads will be rounding off their season at the NCAA Championships meet on the weekend of March 28-30 at IUPUI in Indianapolis.  Let’s all hope for the best for our amphibious Fighting Irish friends!

Jake Kildoo is a sophomore who is a member of the Notre Dame track and field team. You can contact him at jkildoo@nd.edu.