The Michigan women’s swimming team knew it was in for a fight before it arrived in Bloomington. But a tough matchup suddenly turned into a near-disaster with a disqualification on the first relay of Thursday afternoon. Freshman Maggie MacNeil and senior Catie Deloof were barred from finishing the race, ending the 200-yard medley relay team’s chances while it was in second place.
“Well, again, the battling was really fun to watch, especially after the first relay got disqualified,” said Michigan coach Mike Bottom. “We were expecting it to be a really really close meet. (The Hoosiers) have Olympians, Lilly King and several other incredible swimmers on the team, so we expected it would go down to the last relay on the women’s side. And when we disqualified the first relay, that always puts us in a mindset that we gotta cover some ground here.”
The second-ranked Wolverines survived, however, in one of their toughest tests on the season against No. 14 Indiana (2-3-1 overall, 0-1 Big Ten), 172-128. The distance swimmers for Michigan (6-0, 3-0) led the way—senior Yirong Bi won the 500 and 1000-yard freestyle races and placed in the top three in two more events.
“Bi, I think, was probably the stellar performer of the day,” Bottom said. “Having swum the 1000 and moments later, swimming the 200-free and then the 500 and then on the last relay, she was really, really good. She’s a senior and we’re gonna miss her, she’s going. We’ll see her swim at her senior meet this Saturday. She deserves some accolade there for her battling.”
MacNeil and senior Siobhán Haughey were the other standout performers for the Wolverines, collecting three wins apiece. Haughey dominated the sprint events, winning the 100 and 200-yard freestyle races along with the 200-yard individual medley. MacNeil won an impressive array of events including the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard backstroke.
“Well (Haughey always is) a great swimmer and does a great job,” Bottom said. “MacNeil, she’s always a battler, she did a great job with 100-back. Not her best event but she popped up in that, did a great job with it and obviously did her job in the 100-fly. That was expected.”
The Hoosiers ultimately weren’t able to overcome the slew of Michigan wins in the distance races, as the Wolverines stayed undefeated on the season. More importantly, Michigan gained a taste of the setting of the Big Ten Championships, which are being held in Bloomington.
“Well, I think (Indiana is) one of some great teams in the Big Ten,” Bottom said. “The Big Ten is probably the toughest conference in the country, so we expected that it’s not just gonna be Indiana that we’re gonna battle but Minnesota’s gonna have a great team, Ohio State will have a good team.
“Today, we made some really big steps in some of our members that will be scoring in (the Big Ten Championship) really put themselves into that position, which is kind of fun to see.”