In Iowa City for the three-day Hawkeye Invitational this past weekend, the No. 1 Michigan men’s swimming and diving team proved its ranking once again, finishing first out of five teams.
In an effort that highlighted the Wolverines’ speed and depth, Michigan (4-0 overall, 3-0 Big Ten) took first in 19 of the 21 events and multiple Wolverine swimmers placed in the top five to keep piling up points. The Wolverines never trailed en route to accumulating 1,150 points, compared to Notre Dame’s 794, Iowa’s 606.5, Denver’s 478 and Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s 260.5.
“We’re doing a lot of things right in the water,” said Michigan coach Mike Bottom. “We’re doing a lot of training that’s working. Our sprinters are swimming fast, our distance guys are swimming fast, and our strokers are swimming fast. We’re really hitting on a lot of different cylinders, and that’s important moving forward.”
The Wolverines were led by senior Miguel Ortiz, who took first in three individual events and played a role in four relay victories. Juniors Connor Jaeger and Kyle Whitaker each pitched in a pair of individual first-place finishes. Bottom said he was also impressed by junior diver James Ross, who took first in two of the three diving events.
Bottom said he was pleased with how his team performed this weekend, and feels Michigan deserves the early acclaim it has received — including the top ranking. He refuses, however, to let December success define a program that has won 18 national titles in its 91-year history.
“It’s a great ranking to have,” Bottom said. “(The swimmers) take it as a compliment, and we’re proud to have it. But these guys are smart enough to know that here at Michigan, it really doesn’t mean anything until the end of the year.”
While the goal for the season is a national championship, the goal for the next couple weeks is simply getting through finals. While most students study day and night in the libraries on campus, the swimmers have the added task of training and competing. Bottom said this weekend was a good test for his swimmers, as balancing school and swimming proved to be a difficult task.
“It’s only here when the stress is on,” Bottom said. “And the bodies are really beat up like they are today, not getting good sleep, having to study between races. These sort of stressors really add to an opportunity to develop some self-discipline. It’s only when you’re stressed that you can show what you’re really made of.”
Due to finals and winter break, the Wolverines get more than a month off from competition – their longest such stretch of the season – before they travel to Florida to participate in the Mike Pepe Invitational and the Orange Bowl Classic on Jan. 3. Bottom stressed the importance of these weeks as time to train and prepare for the remainder of the season.
“We have some real conditioning to do in the next month,” Bottom said. “But (the swimmers) are going to have finals and go home. So there’s a lot of self-discipline that’s required to keep moving forward and keep getting better. If they don’t choose to do the extra things like eat right or get to practice between study sessions, we’re not going to move forward. But I feel like this group already knows that.”