For the Michigan men’s swimming and diving team, the name of the game is redemption.
Even in the Wolverines’ first meet of the year – a dual meet against non-conference opponent Oakland – the biggest thing on their minds was how to rebound from their disappointing second-place finish at last year’s Big Ten Championships after previously winning the title seven years in a row.
Friday’s meet was a good start. Michigan made a splash, winning the meet by a score of 203-91. Nine different swimmers and divers claimed wins across 13 individual events, and the Wolverines won both relays: the 400-yard medley and the 200-yard freestyle. Michigan coach Mike Bottom saw it as a positive sign for the program.
“It shows the depth of that team,” Bottom said.
Though the team was tired from training hard all week, it didn’t let that stop it from taking down the Golden Grizzlies.
“We didn’t rest at all for this meet … so it was really cool to see everyone swim really fast and post some first-place finishes,” said sophomore Jacob Montague.
Montague was one of the swimmers that stood out Friday. An All-Big Ten second-team selection last season, he won the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke and was part of the winning 400-yard medley relay team.
Another standout was sophomore Felix Auböck. Auböck, who was named Big Ten Swimmer of the Year last year as a freshman, won the 500- and 1000-yard freestyle races, winning the former by nearly 15 seconds with a time of 4:26.43.
In the 200-yard freestyle relay, Michigan entered six teams. One of them took first, but the other five were disqualified for false starts. That’s something the Wolverines need to improve on, but Bottom noted that it’s all about finding a balance between getting fast, aggressive starts while avoiding early jumps.
“They’re starting to feel free to push their starts,” Bottom said. “They’ve been timid in the past because if you disqualify a relay, there’s a lot of points lost.”
He believes the team will show improvement as the season goes on.
“(Pushing their starts) here will help them to do it at the end of the season.”
On the diving side, sophomore Jake Herremans won the one-meter event with a total score of 351.6 while freshman Ross Todd took first in the three-meter with a score of 369.15. Though the divers are just starting to put together their sets, Bottom believes there is plenty to like.
“Our divers did as best as they could (at Big Tens last year) but we didn’t have the personnel. This year we have a great personnel,” Bottom said. “I think that we’ll be a little more competitive.”
Todd, a member of the Australian national team, posted a score over 13 points higher than Herremans, the next-highest finisher, in the three-meter diving.
One of the biggest takeaways from the meet was the sheer energy the team had, even after an intense week of training going in.
“You saw their spirit, how much they were supporting each other,” Bottom said. “The way we’re going to get better is supporting each other.”
Added Montague: “Everyone on the sideline (is) cheering for every single swim. (My favorite part) is the team aspect. It’s really motivating and really helps … me to swim really fast. It’s good to start the year off with some wins, so we’re gonna work off of that.”