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Diving head-first into the season, the No. 9 women’s swimming and diving team (2-0) put critics’ questions to bed with a convincing double dual meet performance.

The Wolverines reigned over No. 20 Indiana (1-1) and No. 24 Northwestern (0-2) on Saturday as they beat the Wildcats 185.5-112.5 and outpaced the Hoosiers 174-126. Michigan dominated the freestyle events in its first meet since the Big Ten Championship last February. 

Senior Sierra Schmidt and sophomore Kaitlynn Sims placed first and second, respectively, in the 1000-yard and 500-yard freestyles. Junior Maggie MacNeil took home first in the 200-yard freestyle, while senior Daria Pyshnenko won the 50 and 100-yard freestyles. MacNeil and Pyshnenko — along with freshman Sophie Housey and junior Olivia Carter — teamed up for first in the 400-yard freestyle relay.

While MacNeil is no stranger to freestyle events, she does not regularly swim the 200-yard freestyle for the Wolverines. Her victory was quite special against swimmers who train specifically for the event.

“(MacNeil’s 200-yard performance) was something that coach Rick Bishop did to win the 200-yard freestyle,” Michigan coach Mike Bottom said. “We’ll take them where we can get them. That’s part of being a coach.”

MacNeil was also slated to swim the 100-yard freestyle, but Pyshnenko replaced her at the last minute, making a sacrifice to help lift her team.

“We had a moment where MacNeil was supposed to swim the 100 freestyle and wasn’t feeling up to par,” Bottom said. “(Pyshnenko) had to step up to win that 100 freestyle.”

One of the most exciting races of the day was the 200-yard backstroke, in which sophomore Mariella Venter, freshman Casey Chung and freshman Sophia Tuinman placed in first, second and third, respectively. Chung, Venter and Tuinman also placed first, second and fourth, respectively in the 100-yard backstroke.

Carter played a key role for the team, winning both butterfly events and the 200-yard individual medley. In the 200-yard butterfly, Carter finished more than four seconds ahead of her opponents.

Slower times were expected at this meet as the teams placed focus on the late February Big Ten Championship, but the effort clearly remained as the athletes raced for the first time in what seems like ages.

Carter praised Housey and junior Victoria Kwan for the grueling schedules they faced. With Kwan facing a quick turnaround between the 200 and 100-yard butterfly, she had little time to recover between events. Housey took a similar turnaround in stride, this time just an event separating her performances in the 200-yard individual medley and 200-yard freestyle relay.

Despite the Wolverines facing more of a struggle in the dive events, some positives could be taken from the team’s performance. Senior diver Christy Cutshaw placed fifth in the 1-meter dive and seventh in the 3-meter coming back from an injury, and freshman Taylor Peters made her debut at the meet.

Not only does the meet raise expectations for the rest of this season, but also for future seasons. With underclassmen playing a significant role in the team’s success, this meet showed that the team possesses the tools to be a long-term threat for the Big Ten Championship.

Despite being the first formal meet since last February, Michigan looked ready to go from the start of the day. Whatever rust existed from the long gap in competitions seemed negligible for the Wolverines, who proved to be a well oiled-machine.

 

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