The words “hard work” and “reward” are rarely used to describe the same thing. Usually, the former is seen as the latter’s antithesis.
But according to Michigan women’s swim and dive coach Mike Bottom, his team’s training trip to Florida, which began shortly after Christmas and concluded with the Orange Bowl Classic in Key Largo, Fla. this Friday, was both.
“We go down, we have a meet, see how we’ve done and where we are,” Bottom said.
If his team’s performance against little-known foes including Wisconsin La Crosse, Florida International, and Colorado and Wagner Colleges, can function as such a barometer, the No. 5 Wolverines (3-0 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) appear ahead of schedule. Michigan did more than sweep every entered event; in only one did the Wolverines fail to place two swimmers in the three medal positions. They won the meet without the benefit of points from the men’s team, a boon which other squads could not capitalize on. The dominance occurred in unfamiliar waters — conditions including an outdoor, short-course pool, which is not NCAA regulation.
“The course is a little bit different — it’s meters, as opposed to yards,” Bottom said. “The times are not so meaningful, it’s the racing that becomes most meaningful in the meet.”
Michigan now owns meet records in all but two events; sophomore Maggie MacNeil set two in this year’s rendition in the butterfly and backstroke sprints. MacNeil also served as the opening leg of the 200-meter medley relay, using her two laps of butterfly to help the Wolverines’ quartet to a six-second victory.
Also on that relay, in a breaststroke capacity, was sophomore Olivia Carter. A midyear transfer from Georgia, where she was the SEC Freshman of the Year and got named to the All-SEC First Team, Carter arrives with expectations as high as her pile of hardware.
“She swims a lot of different events, so she will be scoring a lot of points in different places,” Bottom said.
On Friday, Carter showcased her versatility across distances and strokes. In addition to her breaststroke entry in Michigan’s victorious 200-meter medley relay, she also notched a meet record in the 100-meter butterfly and swam to the touch against her teammate, sophomore Victoria Kwan, in the 200-meter butterfly. Kwan won by a tenth of a second.
“(Carter) chose us after a lot of research, got to know all of our team and our coaching staff, we got to know her really well as well,” Bottom said. “… We’re real fortunate to have her and get her into school.”
Carter’s arrival comes at an opportune time for Michigan, which is preparing for a pair of dual meets against No. 15 Indiana and No. 18 Ohio State.
“They’re gonna be difficult,” Bottom said. “… And then we take it from there, just one step at a time.”