Irish eyes are smiling on Barber |

Irish eyes are smiling on Barber

Robert Bourbon

In his second year with the Notre Dame swim team, Justin Barber is happy with how his season has gone so far.

“It’s going real well,” said Barber, a 2003 Carson High graduate. “We’re 6-1, our only loss has been to Brigham Young.”

The now nationally ranked Fighting Irish, 21st in the country, defeated Louisville 242-117 in a three-session championship meet. Barber was fourth on the team in the 1650-yard freestyle. He also placed fifth in the 500-yard freestyle, finishing just under five minutes, and sixth in the 200-yard individual medley.

This, according to head coach Tim Welsh, is why Barber is here. “He is used primarily in the championship sessions and championship events,” Welsh said. “He is in the 400-yard and 160 yard freestyle. His season is going well, after putting in a good summer of training. He is a good teacher, and will be a hell of a coach. He is very personable and leads by example. His attention span and effort is good, and he is a good example of teamwork.”

Welsh’s coaching successes give the team a reason to listen when he speaks. In 26 years of coaching, 24 of his teams have claimed conference championships. This includes two national championships at Division III Johns’ Hopkins. Since joining the Irish in 1985, his teams have won 16 league titles. Welsh, a Providence College graduate and published writer, also makes sure his teams place high in the academic arena.

Barber, who swam the 200-yard medley relay against Pittsburgh, said he was pleased with the team’s win, by 0.4 seconds, the first win ever against a ranked opponent.

When asked about preparation, Barber stated, “We focus on our training, what we need to do, and where we need to concentrate. I am working hard on the 400 yard individual Medley, and the 1650 yard and the 500 yard freestyle.”

Some of Barber’s best times this year are 4:49.15 in the 500-yard free in a meet against Iowa, 1:59.54 in the 200 yard I.M. also against Iowa and 4:17.01 in the 400 yard I.M.

His contribution helped the Irish beat Iowa, the first win in a dual meet against a Big 10 Conference opponent in 13 years. The Irish won the meet 176-116.

Barber needs to improve by just less than five seconds in the 400-yard I.M. to qualify for the Big East Championship Meet, held Feb. 16-19 in East Meadow, New York. He seems determined to do just that.

So, why Notre Dame?

Barber stated that he liked the spirit the team showed when he came on a recruiting trip. “The team was growing and headed in the right direction,” he said. “The coaches gave the impression that they were there to really help the students, which has certainly proved to be true. The weather is colder and wetter than home, and I do miss the mountains. But, I am in the right place.”

Barber also added that time management, scourge of all new student-athletes, was rough at first, but he has become used to it. “The coaches know studies are a first priority, they move practices to avoid conflicts with tests. They watch us,” he said.

Barber credits his mom with helping him get where he is today. “She gave me a lot of encouragement, helped me with any attitude problems, and gave me the right advice,” he said.

Barber, who will celebrate his 20th birthday on Dec. 8, hopes to improve his swim time to make it to the NCAA championships in March.

But first, he gets to join the Irish for their trip to Ireland in early January.