- File Photo/Daily
By Rajat Khare, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 20, 2013
Winning isn’t easy – especially in the Big Ten. But nobody has told the No. 2 Michigan men’s swimming and diving team that.
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The Wolverines will travel to Bloomington from Feb. 27 to March 2 in search of their third-straight Big Ten Championship. And if this season’s performance is any indication, the trophy should be headed back to Ann Arbor for another year.
“I think we’re going in with some great momentum,” said Michigan coach Mike Bottom. “We’ve had some fast meets as we’ve moved forward to this one, and we look at it like we’re just gaining more momentum.”
The Wolverines boast a perfect 6-0 record against Big Ten teams, with a 8-0 record overall. Though the unblemished record itself is impressive, it’s even more so when the quality of their opponents and the margin of victory are factored in.
Against the three Big Ten teams currently ranked in the nation’s top 15 – No. 8 Indiana, No. 13 Ohio State and No. 14 Minnesota – Michigan has posted scores of 223-77, 251-75 and 170-124, respectively.
“Our team has gotten stronger every competition,” Bottom said. “Whether the competition was stronger or not, our team got stronger.”
But needless to say, when it comes to a Big Ten Championship meet, regular-season records become meaningless. And for a team fostering newcomers in freshmen Dylan Bosh and Anders Lie Nielson, adjusting to the meet atmosphere could be a challenge.
“There is no conference meet like (Big Ten) in the country,” Bottom said. “We have the fastest conference meet in the country, depth-wise, and as we’ve moved forward throughout the year, we’ve told them ‘this is nothing, the next one is going to be harder, the next one is going be harder’ and so we’ve prepared them.”
But this meet – and the season really – isn’t about the newcomers. It’s about those who are leaving.
This year’s senior class is Bottom’s first recruiting class, and effectively the leaders of this team.
“Every year you lose a class and you gain a class, so you really have a big turnover rate in the four-year time,” Bottom said. “Every year means a lot to each team that wins a championship.”
It’s a motto he has reiterated throughout the season – these athletes aren’t swimming for themselves, rather, they’re swimming for each other. And it’s fair to say that this emphasis has paid off, as the team looks ahead to its season goal: NCAAs.
“In swimming it’s easier (to stay motivated) because you can look at the times that are being posted,” Bottom said. “They see that Stanford, Cal, USC and Texas and Arizona and Auburn and all of those teams are putting up very fast times and we know that we are going to face those teams at NCAAs.”
Though on its journey to competing at the NCAAs Championships, Michigan cannot take anything for granted. As far too many teams have found out, winning in the Big Ten conference doesn’t come easy.
If the Wolverines are to complete their three-peat in Bloomington, they’ll have to do what they’ve done all season – compete for each other, one race at a time.