Three weeks into the season, Michigan swimming and diving has its sights set on success. Not only for the upcoming competition year, but also for 2020 in Tokyo.
“It’s an Olympic year,” said Wolverines coach Mike Bottom. “We are the only college pool in the country that has the Olympic Countdown Clock.”
It may be over 300 days until the opening ceremony in Tokyo Olympic Stadium, until the final runner lights the Olympic torch to commence the Games, but Bottom is already eager to gear his swimmers up for qualifying events.
On Friday and Saturday, Michigan (2-0) opened its season with a two-day dual meet series featuring sweeping victories over Navy (1-1) and Miami (OH) (0-2) on both the men’s and women’s sides.
For Saturday morning’s contest, which included relays and short swim events, the Canham Natatorium pool was extended from 25 yards, its traditional competition length, to 50 meters, the standard Olympic length, to create the long-course-style pool that qualifying Wolverine swimmers will face in Tokyo.
“We want to make sure we are giving our student-athletes a great opportunity to make their Olympic team,” Bottom said. “We’re going after it. We’re going after it hard.”
And indeed the Wolverines went after it.
On Friday, the men powered past the Midshipmen and Redhawks, winning 15 of the 16 swim events and trouncing their opponents, 225-75 and 253-45, respectively.
In the diving well, the women swept first through fourth place in both the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard events. Junior Ross Todd took first place in both events on the men's side, while senior Jake Herremans took second.
On Saturday, with the 50-meter Olympic length in place, the men’s and women’s teams won nine of 12 relays, with the women capturing first in all three freestyle relay events and both teams taking first in the 400-meter and 800-meter medley relays.
In the 50-meter butterfly, Michigan swept the podium with sophomore Maggie MacNeil (27.54), senior Vanessa Krause (28.77) and freshman Megan Glass (28.83) claiming first, second and third place. On the men’s side, senior Miles Smachlo took first place in the 50-meter fly (25.11), which he tallied on top of his first place finishes in the 100-yard (47.59) and 200-yard (1:46.59) fly from Friday’s meet.
Alongside Smachlo, fellow veterans like senior Tommy Cope and graduate student Miranda Tucker led the way for the Wolverines, with Cope and Tucker each taking first place in both the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke for their respective sides on Friday. Cope was also a part of the first place 800-meter medley relay, while Tucker (33.67) won the 50-meter breastroke and was a part of three of five winning women’s relays on Saturday.
“We have a whole lot of seniors who have been through the wars, and truthfully, they’re tired of not winning,” Bottom said. “They want to win and they’re leading this team in that direction.”
But the seniors were not the only ones producing. Freshman Kaitlynn Sims made a splashing debut by taking first place in the 500-yard (4:50.50) and 1000-yard (9:53.49) freestyle races, showing great promise for the future of the Michigan women’s program.
“On the women’s side, we lost a big senior class last year, but (this year’s) class is doing a great job putting their arms around the freshmen and sophomores and getting them ready for the future,” Bottom said. “We’re trying to understand where we’re going and what our purpose is, who we’re doing it for. For us to triumph at the end (of the season), we’re going to have to work hard.”
Though the greatest trials and tribulations of the season are still on the horizon, and Tokyo remains far in the distance, the Olympic countdown clock in Canham Natatorium ticks away in the background as the Wolverines hop in the pool each day.
They can hear it, and they are working.