By Erin Lennon, Daily Sports Writer
Published December 2, 2012
In a repeat win of the Hawkeye Invitational this weekend, No. 22 Michigan women’s swimming and diving team swam like it had something to prove.
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After three days in the pool, the Wolverines finished first out of 10 teams with 876.5 points to win the competition for the second straight year.
Veterans and new faces alike had strong performances for the Wolverines to open the meet on Friday, finishing the day with a 66-point lead over second-place Nebraska and Iowa. Seniors Ashley Cohagen and Deirdre Jones teamed up with freshmen Zoe Mattingly and Ali DeLoof in a second-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle relay.
“The freshmen are a big part of what we’re trying to do here,” said Michigan coach Mike Bottom. “In most cases, freshmen don’t really have to be a huge part of a team. Our freshmen need to step up. It looks they’re knocking on the door and will be ready to do that and replace our seniors next year.”
But the highlight of the afternoon was a first-place finish from freshman Marni Oldershaw in the 200-yard individual medley. After she was plagued by injury earlier in the season, the race was Oldershaw’s first victory of her collegiate career and one of her two wins on the day.
“(Oldershaw) had some growing pains earlier in the season, but it’s really great to see how she has pushed past them to not only get back in the pool, but to swim the best she’s ever swam,” Bottom said.
The team of Oldershaw, DeLoof, Cohagen and junior Angela Chokran took first in the 400-yard medley relay, extending Michigan’s first-day total to 237.5 points.
Though the freshmen weren’t present in Iowa City for Michigan’s victory at the invitational last year, they proved important contributors to the Wolverines’ continued dominance on Saturday. Oldershaw added a second individual victory in as many days during the 400-yard individual medley and anchored the first-place 800-yard freestyle relay team. DeLoof took first in the 100-yard backstroke while Mattingly won Michigan points in both the 100-yard butterfly and backstroke.
“It’s really special to see how well (the freshmen) are swimming,” Bottom said.
As the Wolverines had done on Friday, they swept the individual medley and the 100-yard backstroke on Saturday with outstanding swims from upperclassmen Cohagen and junior Courtney Bielder. After the second day of competition, Michigan had extended its lead to more than 100 points, finishing up with 558.5 points headed into the final heats on Sunday.
Senior Adrienne Bicek started off the finals on Sunday with a victory in the 1,650-yard freestyle while yet another Michigan freshman, Jessica Wolf, placed third. Oldershaw improved upon her impressive weekend with a third-place finish in the 200-yard backstroke, just behind Cohagen.
Having set the meet record in 2011, Michigan’s fifth-place finish in the 400-yard freestyle relay wasn’t outstanding, but it was certainly enough to earn the Wolverines points.
“It was really good to see all of the hard work that we’ve put in shown in the pool,” Oldershaw said. “It’s exciting to be a part of the start of the new culture that we’re bringing to the University of Michigan.”
The freshmen proved a force to be reckoned with, and the upperclassmen showed that they could still swim with the best in the nation this past weekend. They proved it to the competition and even to their own teammates.
Most importantly, the Wolverines proved that they can still be a threat as the season continues. It was by far the fastest the team has swam to this point in the season.
“This meet is one of the best things that could have happened to us at this point in the season,” Oldershaw said. “It was a mental booster and a preview to what we are capable of. We know that we’re capable of doing some really great things in the Big Ten given our results from this weekend.”