Before the meet even started, Michigan senior Chris Klein could feel the adrenaline pumping through his veins, as he prepared to race in Canham Natatorium for the last time in his collegiate career. An Ann Arbor native, Klein looked to cap off his days at the natatorium in the same dominant fashion that he had begun them nearly 10 years ago. After touching first in both the 200-yard breaststroke and 200-yard IM on Friday, he had done just that.
“I’ve been coming to swim here and race here for over a decade, so it just kind of means an era coming to an end for me,” Klein said. “In the last time I’m ever going to race at Canham, to come out on top of a couple of races was really special.”
On Friday night, Michigan hosted Ohio State in a contest that was filled with a double-whammy of emotions, as it was both Senior Night and a rivalry matchup. In the end, the ninth-ranked Wolverines put forth a commanding effort to win the dual meet over the 17th-ranked Buckeyes, 186-114.
“Any time a team at Michigan faces Ohio State, the emotions rise up,” said Michigan coach Mike Bottom.
Added Klein: “It was probably the most emotional meet I’ve been to in a long time.”
Coming off its first dual meet loss since 2010 against No. 4 Indiana, Michigan was itching to get back on track in the pool.
“We were really excited to get back to work,” said senior Vinny Tafuto.
In the third event of the meet, freshman Felix Auböck battled Ohio State’s Josh Fleagle in the 200-yard freestyle. Going into the final turn of the race, Auböck and Fleagle were neck and neck.
But with a set of powerful dolphin kicks underwater, the freshman exploded off the wall, fending off Fleagle to win the event by just 0.01 seconds—the narrowest margin possible.
“I knew at 150 yards it was going to be super close. He’s a strong finisher,” Auböck said. “It was super painful … I just put my head down and gave everything the last five to ten yards to make that touch.”
The Wolverines (2-1 Big Ten, 4-1 overall) won 11 of 16 events, and finished with the top three spots in the 100-yard breaststroke, 50-yard freestyle, 200-yard breaststroke and 500-yard freestyle. Michigan has now won 20 dual meets in a row against the Buckeyes (2-1, 9-1).
In the 100-yard butterfly, Tafuto snuck away with the victory, defeating Ohio State’s Michael Salazar—the defending Big Ten champion—with a time of 47.45.
“I had no idea where I was in that field,” Tafuto said. “I was very fortunate and happy to get my hand on the wall.”
For the senior, it was a night of nostalgia in his last home meet for the Wolverines.
“I was just talking with my mom about my recruiting trip,” Tafuto said. “It’s gone by really fast.”
In the final event of the meet, the 400-yard freestyle relay, Michigan went back and forth with Ohio State. When freshman James Jones dove into the pool in the second leg of the relay, he was behind by nearly a body-length. En route to posting an incredible 43.41 split— the fastest out of anyone in the pool—Jones passed Ohio State’s Andrew Appleby, engulfing the natatorium in a deafening cheer. But the cheers were premature, as the Wolverines ended up getting disqualified due to an early take off in the final exchange.
“That was a little disappointing to us,” said Bottom. “In a way it was good for us, because it shows that we can be better and we need to be better.”
Just three weeks away from the Big Ten Championships, Michigan will look to defend its title against the Hoosiers, the presumed favorite.
“We’re going to battle in the Big Ten Championships,” Bottom said. “We’re gonna have to pull something out.”
With a victory against Ohio State, Auböck believes the team sent off its eight seniors in the most meaningful way it could.
“It was the best thing we could give them,” Auböck said. “They did so much for us this year and we had to give them something back.”