The Big Ten men’s swimming and diving championships took place over four days, but it only took one for No. 5 Michigan to set the tone for the rest of the competition.
The Wolverines were trailing Indiana going into the third leg of the 800-yard freestyle relay, an event which Michigan had won 15 consecutive times.
Junior Jack Mangan jumped into the pool to begin a furious comeback, and by the time senior captain and All-American Dylan Bosch dove into the lane, Indiana’s lead had nearly been erased. And when Bosch touched the wall for the final time, he looked up, only to see his relay teammates celebrating.
Celebration was something the Wolverines would get used to over the weekend, as they won their sixth consecutive conference championship at Purdue’s Boilermaker Aquatic Center.
“(It) was pretty nerve-wracking,” Bosch said of the relay. “Jack Mangan had a monster swim to get us back in the race and I got the easy job to just finish it. We were really confident in the team we put up and it worked out in the end.
“We knew Indiana and Ohio State were going to come at us pretty hard. I’m really proud of everyone for getting the job done.”
Winning the conference title was a fitting end to the careers of Michigan’s eleven-man senior class.
Led by Bosch and fellow captain Anders Lie Nielsen, the Wolverines have consistently proven to be the best of the conference, and among the best in the nation, for the senior class’s entire career.
Michigan coach Mike Bottom credited his older team members for providing steady leadership and for providing an impact outside of the scoreboard.
“Every time we got together before a session, we had one of our seniors speak,” Bottom said. “Peter Brumm (is) a great example of a leader who spent four years with us. (He) finished in three different finals, scored a lot of points for Michigan (and) inspired this team. Matt Zimmerman was another senior, Kyle Dudzinski was a senior getting his master’s degree in the Business School and Will Raynor got the sportsmanship award. They all took turns speaking before the sessions and really inspired the team.
“(We) have some great seniors that really contributed in ways that didn’t get many points on the board, but were inspirational. It’s a difficult time for some of us. It’s their last meet, they’re finishing up their degrees, making a difference and being champions out in the world.”
And while the seniors had their say in the locker room and in the pool, several underclassmen also made their names known throughout the competition.
Sophomore Paul Powers broke the school and Big Ten Championship meet records with a time of 18.85 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle event on Thursday, while sophomores Evan White, Aaron Whitaker, PJ Ransford and Tristan Sanders also scored points for the Wolverines.
The performance of Michigan’s underclassmen is one reason why Bosch believes that the future of the team remains bright.
“We’ve always been a pretty deep team and I think that’s what you need to win this meet,” Bosch said. “Evan’s going to step it up next year and be one of those leaders. There’s a long line of history. I was up there (on the podium) with Kyle Whitaker when he was winning and I was behind him, and he just taught me how to lead, and how to teach the up-and-coming guys what they needed to do.”
Nielsen was complimentary of his coach, who has led both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams to conference championships in the same year for the first time since 1997.
“(Coach Bottom) is awesome,” Nielsen said. “He’s one of the most knowledgeable guys in the world. What he’s done with the women’s team and the men’s team (is amazing). I can’t believe we did it.”
In creating a modern-day dynasty, Bottom has successfully cultivated a team atmosphere. Though his swimmers and divers compete in mostly individual events, they all remember what and who they’re competing for when they’re in the water.
His star senior, Bosch, gave a succinct answer when asked about receiving the Big Ten Swimmer of the Championships award.
“It’s something I’ll keep forever and remember,” Bosch said. “But it’s more fun to have won the team championship. That’s more important.”