With the Big Ten Championship less than a week away, Michigan coach Jim Richardson and the No. 15 women’s swimming and diving team are taking full advantage of the two weeks they have to prepare. And these two weeks came at an opportune time.
“We’re resting for the first time this year, we’re reducing the workload,” Richardson said earlier this week. “We’re still maintaining the same kind of intensity that we need to maintain, but just in lower volumes.”
The Wolverines’ last outing was on Jan. 29 with a 123-120 loss to No. 25 ranked Penn State. The meet was decided in the final event, the 400-meter freestyle relay, in which the Nittany Lions beat out Michigan in the last 100 yards. But even following the heartbreaking loss, the team is optimistic about the conference championship next week.
“I think we’re going to swim fast, and that’s the only thing we have control over,” Richardson said. “We have to prepare ourselves to swim fast, hopefully faster than we’ve ever swum before … and if we do that we’ll end up where we should end as a team.”
The Wolverines will have their work cut out for them next week, as they take on No. 13 Minnesota and No. 14 Indiana. Minnesota is the favorite to win the Big Ten Championship, and Michigan lost its last meet against the Hoosiers, 157-127. Richardson admits the team’s road to a conference championship since 2004 will be a tough hill to climb.
“We’re hoping that we get a number of swimmers who swim fast enough to move on to the NCAAs,” Richardson said. “To get to the NCAAs we would have to swim an absolutely perfect meet and we’d need some help from some other teams … if we get some help from some of the other Big Ten teams, in terms of swimming well, then we can make it an interesting meet.”
However, the Big Ten Championships, and NCAAs, are not the only thing on Richardson’s mind when he looks at his young team’s bright future.
“Our number one goal for the year really was geared more towards next year,” Richardson said. “Next year is the Olympic trials, and so our No. 1 goal was to increase work capacity, so we spent the whole first semester training long course and I think it was very beneficial from what I have seen."
The Olympics are already a familiar sight for senior Natasha Moodie, one of the three team captains. She participated in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, representing Jamaica. Moodie finished 37th in the 50-meter freestyle.
While the 2012 Olympics could very well be in Moodie’s future, she is focused on the task at hand.
“The Big Ten is just the final hurrah to a great season,” Moodie said. “It does not say anything about us as a team per se because everything’s already been said before in terms of our training. It’s just to see where we are and if our homework will pay off.”
The Big Ten Championship will take place next week in Bloomington from Wednesday through Saturday. Should the Wolverines advance to the NCAA Championship, they will be competing in Austin, Texas from March 17-19.