BY KYLE SAUKAS
For the Daily
Published February 26, 2012
The Michigan men’s swimming and diving team won its 36th Big Ten Championship in dominating fashion on Saturday in Iowa City.
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It was a grueling four days of competition involving the conferences’ best, but the Wolverines left no doubt in anyone’s mind. Michigan won the event with a final score of 738.5 — 186 points better than second-place Ohio State.
Senior and co-captain Dan Madwed saved the best for last.
Madwed put on his greatest performance of his career to take first place in the 200-yard butterfly, clocking in at 1:42.67, and the 100-yard butterfly, with a time of 46.02.
Then the Madwed show turned to the relays.
Madwed headlined the winning 800-yard freestyle relay along with sophomores Michael Wynalda, Kyle Whitaker and Conner Jaeger. The quartet finished with a mark of 6:16.26. Madwed also took part in the winning 400-yard individual medley relay team that checked in with a time of 3:07.32.
Due to his outstanding performance in Iowa City, Madwed earned a first team All-Big Ten selection, and the honor of being named Swimmer of the Big Ten Championships.
This honor, voted upon by the coaches of the Big Ten teams participating in the championships, is given to the best swimmer. This fact was not lost on the veteran Madwed.
“It’s a pretty special thing,” Madwed said. “All the other coaches, including (Michigan coach) Mike (Bottom), thought that I was outstanding. That’s pretty special considering how many people won two events as well. I’m glad I got it my last year.”
Madwed’s victory in the 200-yard butterfly made him the third Wolverine to ever win the event in back-to-back-to-back seasons. The last Michigan swimmer accomplish the feat was Davis Tarwater (2004-06).
“The 200-(butterfly) is kind of my bread and butter,” Madwed said. “That was kind of a special moment for me going out on top in my last race.”
But Madwed wasn’t the only member of the Michigan team to win accolades in Iowa City. Ten members of the team were named first team All-Big Ten selections, while three others were placed on the second team.
Jaeger, Wynalda and junior Miguel Ortiz each won two events in Iowa, while Whitaker earned two other titles besides his share of the 800-yard freestyle championship — the 400-yard individual medley and 200-yard individual medley.
Whitaker admitted that swimming with Madwed, Wynalda and Jaeger in the 800-yard freestyle relay was a highlight for him throughout the season.
“It was great,” Whitaker said. “Being able to train with those guys the whole year … it just flowed. It was pretty great to share that with them.”
And it wasn’t just the swimmers who were earning hardware in Hawkeye country this past weekend. Michigan coach Mike Bottom won his second-consecutive Big Ten Coach of the Year award in his three-year career at Michigan.
With three conference championships in as many years, Bottom’s success comes as no surprise to him or the team.
“He just really gets us motivated,” Whitaker said. “He really speaks to us … to put things in perspective. He’s a great coach.”
Bottom attributes his team’s performance to his own ability to grow and learn from the very team he coaches.
“Michigan has changed me as an individual,” Bottom said. “It’s an amazing thing. It's the values, and communicating it to the kids. The more I can pass that down to the coaching staff and the kids the more they will be able to do what they did this weekend.”
Seniors like Madwed, who are crucial to the team are in the forefront of Bottom’s mind when he thinks about the success his team has had in the past years.
“I continue to talk about Dan because he is such an extraordinary individual,” Bottom said. “Not only a great swimmer, but an incredible leader. He will get this team going in the right direction every time.”
With five members of the team in their senior seasons, it’ll be left to swimmers like Whitaker to bear the load next year in the hopes of another Big Ten title.
“We got a bunch of young guns that really improved this season,” Whitaker said. “We got some good freshmen coming in too. The seniors are going to be greatly missed … but they help the younger guys know their expectations so we should be able to fill the gaps.”
Yet Bottom advises his swimmers not to look to far forward, but to focus on the present. In fact, celebrating the victory in Iowa is all the coach wants from his team. Bottom isn’t even letting the Wolverines ponder their next meet yet — the OSU Last Chance Meet next Sunday, which is the final opportunity to finish with a time quick enough to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
“This team is disciplined in not doing that, not thinking about what is going to happen,” Bottom said. “We are going to celebrate because this is a great win for us. We are very proud to represent Michigan and the way these guys represent it.”