Michigan shows improvement in Texas A&M meet

BY RYAN A. PODGES
Daily Sports Writer
Published November 24, 2008

Tough competition is nothing new for the No. 18 Michigan women’s swimming and diving team.

Already this season, the Wolverines have faced No. 3 Stanford, No. 4 Texas, No. 5
Florida, No. 9 Indiana and No. 11 Minnesota.

So when Michigan entered the three-day Art Adamson Invitational at Texas A&M this weekend to swim against No. 6 California, No. 8 Texas A&M and No. 14 Southern Methodist, among others, Michigan coach Jim Richardson was excited to see how his battle-tested team would respond to the meet's speed.

If Michigan’s third-place performance was any preview of the NCAA Championship meet, which will be held in the same pool, the Wolverines are poised to have one incredible meet.

“I can’t honestly recall a better swim meet for us in November,” said Richardson, who is in his 24th season as the Wolverines head coach. “I couldn’t be happier. We try to swim intelligently, and when you look at the way we swam and the splits for each segment of the race, I can’t recall a better meet than we’ve had even at the end of a season. We just swam really well.”

Junior Margaret Kelly had the only first-place finish for Michigan in the 200-yard individual medley. Kelly also finished fifth in the 100-yard freestyle with a personal-best time of 49.33 and fourth in the 100-yard butterfly.

Sophomore Natasha Moodie broke 23 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle twice in one night when she led off the 200-yard freestyle relay with a time of 22.7 and then swam 22.8 in her individual event. Richardson estimated her relay split was one of the top four or five swims in Michigan history.

Michigan began the meet with impressive swims in the 200-yard freestyle and 400-yard medley relays, which finished second and fourth, respectively.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had six relays in this meet swim as well as we had swim on Friday and that’s really impressive to me,” Richardson said. “In three relays you have 12 people, and for all of them to swim well is a hard thing to have happen. We did that twice tonight. We just did not have a bad swim on those relays and it was excellent.”

The meet took a bizarre and disappointing turn on Friday night when several records set at the meet, including the Big Ten and school record Kelly set that night in her 200-yard individual medley, were ruled invalid. The pool was measured at 75 feet and 0.5 inches the day before the meet, but tightening the lane lines between the pool wall and the moveable bulkhead apparently caused the bulkhead to move toward the wall and made the pool length 1.125 inches shorter than the 75-foot minimum requirement when it was measured again after competition ended Friday.

The only reason the pool was measured again was because Aggie senior Triin Aljand set an NCAA record in the 50-yard freestyle. Since it is unclear at what time between the two measurements the bulkhead moved, the number of races swum at the correct and incorrect distances is unknown. An appeal will be filed with the NCAA to permit the a time conversion to be used to generate new times for each race. The NCAA may then recognize these new times as valid records and NCAA qualifying times.

Richardson said the team’s incredible performance was a result of how the team has been training. Before this weekend, all of the Wolverines' meets have been on Fridays and Saturdays after a long week of hard training. Richardson took a special approach to training for this weekend, one he has taken each year before this meet.

“We trained 100% on Monday, trained about 75% on Tuesday, about 50% on Wednesday, travel on Thursday and then we raced on Friday,” he said. “I think that having a couple days of recovery so that they’re not running on fumes at the end of the week means our performances here are really a more accurately reflect how they train and prepare to race.”

The training appears to be working, but Richardson seems to have said it best.

"The results speak for themselves," he said.