A deconditioning cycle like the Michigan swim and dive teams’ will experience during the University’s 14-day freeze on athletics could set the Wolverines back significantly after weeks of heavy training. For the seniors who already lost an NCAA Championship appearance last year, that deconditioning could jeopardize their last shot.
The suspension of athletics means the Wolverines will be limited to exercises they can conduct under quarantine. No gyms. No weight rooms. No pools.
That shift in conditioning poses a huge problem as both Michigan squads look to complete their seasons. With dual meets against Ohio State postponed and the Big Ten Championship looming on the horizon, the pause puts a premium on Michigan’s remaining time.
“At this point, every training session counts, and any more lost time will lead to more losses in fitness and thus more losses in performance,” Dr. Adam Lepley, a School of Kinesiology assistant professor, told The Daily in an email. “That is also not to mention any potential injuries suffered due to an accelerated timeline and training schedule, which could set individuals back further.”
Lepley explained that cardiovascular fitness levels can decline in just a few days, let alone a 14-day span. However, the fitness level of the athletes before the pause could be their saving grace from cardiovascular deconditioning, which affects everything from oxygen usage to the amount of blood pumped by one contraction.
Once the pause is over, the No. 5 women’s swim and dive team and the divers of the No. 9 men’s squad will have less than 17 days to prepare before they travel to their respective conference championship locations on Feb. 24. With a few more days to prepare, the men’s swimmers will race to defend a Big Ten title they earned last season on Mar. 3.
It could prove difficult for the teams to get back into optimal shape even if everything goes well. This assumes that the team will work taper time into its schedule to improve its chances at the Big Ten Championship, a three-horse race between Michigan, Indiana and Ohio State.
The postponed double date with the Buckeyes’ swim and dive teams could find itself played out somewhere in that 17-day span, too. While there have been no announcements of cancellation, the Wolverines might have trouble fitting that into their possibly chaotic return to practice.
If those dual meets are canceled, Michigan could miss out on a key scouting op before everything’s on the line.
If the Wolverines’ backs weren’t already against the wall with the density of their schedule, the teams could find their reconditioning time slashed even further should the University extend the pause.
The Wolverines’ cycles of heavy training before the quarantine could lessen their likely losses coming out of the freeze, easing the physical challenges and allowing the team to recover its progress.
But training hurdles aren’t the only barriers the Wolverines will need to jump. After months of dedicated work, the Wolverines will have ample time to ponder their situation before the championship marathon.
“Mentally, it’s way more difficult,” men’s swim alumnus Felix Auböck said. “(A 14-day pause) has never been done before the biggest meet.”
The constant testing of Michigan’s perseverance could prove helpful down the stretch as younger Wolverines near their final meets.
“(The pause) is one of the biggest challenges they will face in their college career,” Auböck said. “They will come out of it stronger.”
But for those whose college careers end with this season, the championship sequence could serve as a farewell tour.
Seniors whose NCAA Championship hopes were dashed with the cancellation of the NCAA meet last March now find their final chances threatened by the effects of the pause, including Ross Todd, Gus Borges, Daria Pyshnenko and Will Roberts.
Pyshnenko, a 10-time All-American, won multiple events for the women’s team already this season. Her times, though, have not broken the plane to enter the NCAA Championship, dictated by making the “A” or “B” cut times to get a spot in each race because the training regimen for swimming was built towards getting faster as the season progresses. The Big Ten Championship could be her only opportunity to qualify, adding extra meaning to her performance coming out of quarantine.
On the diving side, Todd has already met the NCAA standards in the 1 and 3-meter dives. However, the two-week gap could add difficulty to repeating his Big Ten Championship success of last season, a meet in which he earned Co-Diver of the Championships honors.
Not everyone is pessimistic, however. The break could only add coal to the fire that has fueled the Wolverines all season.
“(Borges and Todd) will be fine,” Auböck said. “They are so experienced and world-class athletes. Especially Ross in diving is a perfectionist. It should not be a problem for them to qualify.”