Maggie MacNeil pulled forward ahead of Iowa’s Kelsey Drake, striking the edge of the wall with her open hand to win the 100-yard butterfly event, one of two events she won as a part of No. 11 Michigan women’s swim team’s win over Iowa.
The sophomore MacNeil, who won a gold medal in the same event at the 2019 FINA World Championships, turned in one of many strong performances by the Wolverines (3-0 overall, 1-0 Big Ten), who used their depth to coast to their third-consecutive win to open the season. MacNeil, senior Miranda Tucker and freshman Kaitlyn Sims all won two events apiece as they defeated the Hawkeyes, 173-127.
Michigan swimmers finished second, third, and fourth in both the 200-yard backstroke, 200-yard individual medley and 200-yard butterfly and first, third and fourth in the 200-yard breaststroke and 100-yard backstroke.
According to Michigan coach Mike Bottom, bright spots for the team included performances by the team’s underclassmen, who stepped up to help overcome what was a phenomenal senior class a year ago.
“We lost an incredible senior class last year. They were leaders for the team, and because of that we have to count on those second, third, and fourth finishes in some events,” Bottom said. “We have a couple of freshmen that are really stepping up. The mile event was won by Kaitlyn Sims, and she finished with 9:44.11, which is one of the top times in the country this season. She’s made an impact right away. ”
Bottom also stated that in preparing for the meet, the toughest challenge was acclimating to the Iowa pool, which he says is different from what the team is used to practicing in due to the presence of bulkheads – large structures that split a pool into different sizes, forcing swimmers to adjust the way they turn as the surface does not extend all the way down the pool.
Nonetheless, Bottom stressed that acclimating to this particular pool is a priority for the Wolverines, as the Big Ten Championships are set to be hosted here later in the season.
“Learning how to race here is really important,” Bottom said. “We wanted to learn this pool because there's a lot of idiosyncrasies. It’s a great pool, but every time you have a bulkhead pool, there’s a little bit of trickiness in the way that you're going to turn, because you have to look under the bulkhead and learn how to judge that turn.”
The presence of bulkheads wasn’t the only adjustment the team had to make.
“The starting blocks here are really good, but they're different from the ones that we’re used to, so we have to learn how to use them to take full advantage,” Bottom said. “Then there’s the timing system, which is different as well. It’s a great system, also better than ours, but the starts are different, the pads are different, the turns are different. These are little things we had to look at and get better with.”
Despite these obstacles, Michigan still competed at a high level, winning its first and only meet in the month of November.