Michigan struggles at NCAA Championships
When Michigan freshman Felix Auböck hit the wall to finish his mile freestyle at the men’s NCAA Championships this weekend, he didn’t know his race made history.
His second-place finish put him in the books with the new school and Big Ten record — the latter of which stood for 16 years.
Auböck also received All-American honors in the 500-yard freestyle, placing third overall (4:08.95). He was one of the 12 Wolverines who closed their season at the championship meet in Indianapolis. Michigan ultimately placed 17th with a total of 52 points.
Junior PJ Ransford finished sixth in the mile freestyle after leading the race through the 1,000-yard mark, neck and neck with Auböck. Ransford went on to break the school record in the 1,000-yard freestyle (8:43.37).
On top of his success in the pool, Ransford won the 2017 Elite 90 Award, which is given to the student athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average in each of the NCAA’s 90 athletic championships. The mechanical engineer is the fourth Michigan student athlete to receive this award.
“We had a lot of swimmers taking tests and gearing up to get back to school on Monday during this meet,” Michigan coach Mike Bottom said. “PJ is a great representation of what we do at Michigan. We do it all, we expect excellence in school, in the pool and on the boards.”
Coming off a strong Big Ten Championship performance, where he won three Big Ten titles, junior Paul Powers claimed his third All-American title in the 50-yard freestyle, placing eighth (19.17).
Bottom was pleased with how his team handled the pressure that came with the fast-paced nature of the meet.
“This meet sort of shows the meat of our program,” Bottom said. “Our guys are tough, and they continue to fight even when it doesn’t look like we’re ready to score and be in the top 10. The meet got so fast that the swims that would’ve made finals last year did not make it, even though we had a lot of personal growth.”
Freshman Jacob Montague, the highest-seeded freshman in both the 200-yard breaststroke and the 100-yard breaststroke, finished 11th and 19th in each respective race.
Of Michigan’s eight individual national qualifiers, four were freshmen. It was an experience that may pay dividends for the younger swimmers down the road.
“This meet was a good eye opener for our guys,” Bottom said. “I don’t think anyone, swimmers or coaches, expected the type of fast swimming that came about here. So now, the freshman have seen it, got a taste of it and we’ll come back and work harder.”