BY COURTNEY LEWIS
Daily Sports Writer
Published December 3, 2001
After the second day of the Texas Invitational, coach Jon Urbanchek was asked where his Michigan men"s swimming and diving team stood in the standings. He didn"t know. And he didn"t really care.
That"s because the meet, which was held Friday through yesterday in Austin, Texas and featured some of the top swimmers in the nation, was primarily an opportunity to gauge individual progress.
Urbanchek said most coaches were not concerned with where their teams placed.
"We just try to have each athlete have improved performances," Urbanchek said.
Michigan, ranked No. 12 in the country, ended the invitational in eighth place, with 252 points. No. 2 Texas amassed 669 points to take first, followed by Arizona State and Arizona.
Andrew Hurd was one Wolverine who showed progress since Michigan"s last meet. His NCAA-consideration time of 4:21.81 in the 500-yard freestyle was a 12-second improvement on the time he posted against Georgia Nov. 3. Hurd finished third behind Southern Cal"s Klete Keller and Eric Vendt. All three competed in the 2000 Olympics.
Hurd also earned a consideration time in the 1,650 freestyle, where he placed fourth.
Michigan withdrew from the Spartan Swimming Invitational (Nov. 16-17) to give it a month-long break between meets. The extra training time provided Hurd with a chance to work on swimming short courses, which are measured in yards.
The Canadian freshman had only swum long-course meters before coming to Ann Arbor, and the switch to short course was difficult at first.
"It"s getting a lot better," Hurd said. "I"m starting to swim to my potential."
He added that he hasn"t really changed his strategy he"s just more comfortable.
"I still don"t really know how to swim in yards that well, but the turns feel more regular now," Hurd said.
Urbanchek was looking for Hurd to have a breakout meet in Austin.
"I think he was ready," Urbanchek said. "He"s had international experience, so he should be (near the top of the standings)."
Brendan Neligan, Dan Ketchum and Jason Mallory also swam consideration times in the 500 freestyle, with Ketchum placing eighth.
Garrett Mangieri and Jeff Hopwood also grabbed top-10 finishes in Austin. Hopwood took eighth in the 100 breaststroke and Mangieri finished in the same spot in the 200 freestyle.
In some cases, even individual finishes were not particularly important to the Wolverines. Senior Tim Siciliano finished 12th in the prelims of the 400 individual medley, not even good enough to qualify for the final heat. But Urbanchek was still satisfied with his performance.
Siciliano has never swum well during the regular season. Throughout his career he hasn"t peaked until March, but he"s won the NCAA title in the 400 individual medley three straight years.
While Siciliano hoped to put a good time on the board, his coach didn"t expect him to make the finals. Instead, Urbanchek was pleased that Siciliano"s time of 3:57.10 was 10 seconds faster than he swam at the same event last year.
The Wolverines posted improved times in the relays as well. Urbanchek said distance events are still Michigan"s strength, but the relays will be a big part of this year"s team.
The 800 freestyle team of Ketchum, Hurd, Mangieri and Jason Mallory took fourth place with a time of 6:33.19, an NCAA-consideration time.
The Texas Invitational featured some of the top swimming programs in the country, and Michigan welcomed the elite competition.
"We love to come into big meets and see all these great athletes," Urbanchek said. "This meet brings out the best in you."