While there was an admitted talent gap between the Michigan women’s swim and dive team and its rivals, the Wolverines relied on long-term development to power past more highly-ranked opponents at this weekend’s Minnesota Invite. 

No. 19 Michigan came in second out of seven, falling 422.5 points shy of first-place No. 3 California.

Michigan (3-0) came out of the weekend with 10 top-three finishes and seven athletes qualifying for NCAA Championships. 

The second-place finish was better than Michigan coach Mark Bottom was expecting facing the Golden Bears, No. 5 Texas and other top teams. 

Bottom had reason be worried after losing a dominant senior class last spring, comprised of Siobhán Haughey, Catie DeLoof and Jamie Yeung, who led the team to a third-place finish at the NCAA Finals. But after this week, it’s clear this won’t be a rebuilding year for the Wolverines. The team’s depth was evident in its relay — made up of seniors Chloe Hicks and Miranda Tucker, as well as junior Daria Pyshnenko and sophomore Maggie MacNeil — in which they placed third behind California and the Longhorns.

Junior diver Christy Cutshaw secured valuable points for the team with her first-place finish on the platform dive. 

In recent years, Michigan has been a dominant program, but has yet to best the Golden Bears in the postseason. Bottom attributes the gap to different levels of recruiting. California typically has a top-10 recruiting class in the county, while the Wolverines focus on developing their athletes once they get to Ann Arbor — a strategy Bottom thinks will be integral to the team’s future success. 

“We recruit well and develop greater athletes,” Bottom said. “That’s kind of what we’ve done in the past and will continue to do. We won’t always get the best athletes — as a matter of fact, we get very few, but we get some and we develop a great team.”

That development seems to have paid off. Friday, MacNeil tied the NCAA and U.S. Open records on the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 49.26 seconds. While she already has a lot to show for her time at Michigan, including the Big Ten of the Year accolade and four Big Ten Championship titles, Bottom stresses that MacNeil’s success is a product of the work she’s put in since joining the team. 

“She didn’t come in a superstar,” Bottom said. “She came in a good swimmer, just like a lot of our girls. They have hope that they can achieve some of the things she’s achieved. She’s real good about understanding where she came from and encouraging others to follow that path.” 

Many other members of the team followed MacNeil’s lead, setting personal-best’s and approaching school-wide records. Hicks clocked in at 1:53.12 minutes on the 200-yard backstroke, trumping her previous record by almost 10 seconds. Pyshnenko just edged out her previous record of 50.20 seconds on the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 48.12. 

“We’re getting better, and that’s what we want to do,” Bottom said. “Every time we get to a mid-season meet like this, the idea is that you want to be as close to your best in season times and better than last year’s end of season times. That’s where we’re moving.”


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