In a head-to-head dual for first place, Evan White pushed forward to close the gap of centimeters between him and the frontrunner, Indiana’s Vini Lanza. With the crowd rallying behind White, the senior gave a last hurrah in the final lap.
He came up short.
Just as White had, the No. 8 Michigan men’s swimming team fell to the fourth-ranked Hoosiers in a close dual meet despite giving its best efforts. Though the seniors put the team in a contending position, the Wolverines couldn’t come out on top.
Despite the loss, Michigan rose to the occasion. Wolverines coach Mike Bottom claimed that the team had “one of their fastest dual meets by far on the men’s side and women’s side.” However, rising even higher was Indiana, who also had one of its fastest dual meets on both sides.
Other silver linings of the day for Michigan were key performances from two of its seniors captains — PJ Ransford and White.
Putting on a show for the 200 and 100-yard Butterfly, White came out on top for one of two close contests and placed second on the other. Despite the result of the 200-yard, he had the claim to a first-place finish throughout, falling just short in final moments of the last lap. He finished with a 1:44.30, just .45 seconds from the winning time.
However, rather than feeling down about his flawed finish in the 200-yard Butterfly, he entered his next event, the 100-yard Butterfly with a clear mind and intense focus. Determined to bounce back, he came from behind to overtake Lanza in the final lap, finishing with a 46.47, a tenth of a second faster than the second-place finish.
Instead of taking in the cheers or getting distracted by results and emotions from the first race, White admitted that only one thought ran through his mind as he swam: “Just try hard and score points for Michigan.”
Likewise, Ransford had a similar approach to the meet. A slow starter — Bottom noted that Ransford “normally kinda sits back and builds into it” — Ransford chose to go head first into action in both his races, claiming the lead early into the laps.
Knowing that he had to score points on the distance races, Ransford took it upon himself to try and give the Wolverines the advantage. Keeping scoring on his mind, he came out fast while controlling the pace to dominate the competition.
“What a great swim he had, both the 500-yard and the mile,” Bottom said. “Both of those were great swims. He went out for it, he didn’t mess around, did he? He went out for it. This time I think he wanted it. He wanted it bad.”
His desire to win showed, as he finished the 1,000-yard freestyle a near half-lap ahead of any Indiana swimmer — coming in at 9:01.88.
“First half of the season, it’s tough because you’re working really hard,” Ransford said. “The second half, you start to do a bit more speedwork. And I was hitting my stroke count really well. But it is nice in a race to jump on it and be able to tell halfway that we’re going to get first, second for sure.”
Being able to see the surefire victory provided relief to Ransford as he witnessed a sweep in the 500-yard freestyle, with Michigan claiming the top three times. With a time of 4:23.03, Ransford paved the way for the underclassmen to follow.
Despite their individual achievements, the Wolverines were neither pleased nor disappointed with their performance.
“It’s always tough to take a loss at home, but Indiana is a great team,” White said. “I think all our guys showed strong mentalities and no one was down after. It was in season. It was just good racing and practice for the end of the season.”