By John Blatchford
The Louisville men and women will both be partying tonight -- and all year -- as they can now both call themselves BIG EAST champs. The men repeat while the women win the title for the first time in their short history in the BIG EAST. Notre Dame had won the women’s title for 14 years in a row, the longest streak for any sport in BIG EAST history.
The Cardinals dominated day four of the BIG EAST Championships to win by over 200 points on the men’s side (they started the day up 20) and 170 points on the women’s side.
Brendon Andrews shined (and not just his flowing blonde locks) by winning three events on the weekend and the men punctuated a fine weekend with a BIG EAST record in the 400 free relay (2:54.04). The scary thought is that Louisville thinks they have more left for NCAAs. Coach Albiero says of Carlos Almeida “The focus from day one was to have guns loaded for NCAA champs. I had second thoughts after [Almeida’s] 400 IM, but a 1:54.9 [in the 200 breast] speaks volumes about his talent and the places he will go.” Almeida rubbed his hairy legs after the swim and we can only wonder about where the rest of his taper will take him. When asked how he wanted to improve on his fifth place finish at the national meet from a year ago, Almeida was hesitant to make a prediction and just left it at getting “much better”. He is indicative of an international influence that the ‘Cards have seen. Hailing from Portugal and looking to represent his home country in 2012 in London, Albiero credits much of Louisville’s recent success with their ability to train long course and prepare athletes for international competitions.
The Notre Dame men battled but eventually succumbed to UofL in the end. They had a decent chance in the 200 back, getting four men to the finals but they were beat by Louisville in every event on the evening and placed only as high as third in the 100 free thanks to freshman standout Frank Dyer with a 44.11.
The feel good story of the meet was clearly Syracuse in their final meet of existence as a program. To start the meet, three senior men were honored and everybody in the entire natatorium rose for a standing ovation. With Kuba Kotynia in the finals for the 200 breast, many teams were cheering for him, sometimes even instead of their own teams. He felt the energy and took the swim out blazing and stayed strong to come in second with a 1:56.39, a school record that he’ll hold forever. It was a B Cut time so we’ll see if he can keep the dream alive.
UConn overtook Seton Hall for fifth following the 100 free despite the efforts of men’s swimmer of the year, SHU’s Kevin Webster who won the 200 back tonight (1:43.93), took second in the 500, and won in the 400 IM to bring SHU to a sixth place finish.
West Virginia and Pitt battled for third but ended the day the way they started, with Pitt getting third and WVU finishing fourth. Pitt was powered by a second place finish Hermanus Kluever in the 200 fly (1:46.72) and WVU was given strength with a magic potion swim from Jared Christie-Goldthorpe in the 200 back (1:44.31) as well as a second place finish in the 400 free relay (2:57.77).
On the women’s side, it remained a no contest for the UofL squad as their immense depth and huge lead proved key even as second place Notre Dame ended up with three victories on the night. Louisville’s only victory came from Therese Bergstrom who ends a fine Big East career by taking both the 100 and 200 breaststroke events.
ND won the 100 free (Kelly, 49.73), 200 back (Holden, 1:55.18), and 400 free relay (3:19.68) for a strong evening that would eventually fall short overall in the team standings.
The true battle of the meet was for 3rd. Nova took the lead after the 1650, WVU took it back after the 200 back, NOVA after 100 free by 1 point, then Nova gained some distance after 200 breast, but were tracked down with WVU win (BE record holder Nugent, (1:57.00) in 200 fly. Nugent’s was named co-swimmer of the year (also 100 fly champ) for the women along with teammate Rachael Burnett (winner of 500fr, 400IM).