For once, Big Ten swimmers weren’t competing against each other.
This weekend, swimmers from the conference formed a collective team and faced select members of Team USA in the USA College Challenge. Representing Michigan on the Big Ten team were five swimmers from the men’s swimming and diving team, along with four members from the women’s team. Michigan coach Mike Bottom attended the dual-meet in Indianapolis, overseeing the women’s Big Ten team.
“It wasn’t really about our teams. It was about us coming together as a conference,” Bottom said. “We’re all competing, but yet the competition is making everyone better and we have learned to appreciate our competitors as well as the competition.”
In spite of the united effort, the Big Ten fell short of a win, losing to Team USA, 349-247. Though the Big Ten lost, the weekend was still a success for the conference as several collegiate records were broken by swimmers from all schools. Michigan sophomore Siobhàn Haughey beat her previous Big Ten and Michigan record in the 200-yard freestyle — the same event she competed in during the semifinals of the 2016 Rio Olympics — by 0.42 seconds with a time of 1:42.93. Haughey’s time was the fastest recorded time nationally in the 200-yard freestyle this season.
Another Wolverine with a standout performance this weekend was freshman Charlie Swanson. One of only three Big Ten winners on Saturday, Swanson finished first in the 400-yard individual medley with a time of 3:46.09.
Also on Saturday, both fifth-year senior Luke Papendick and junior PJ Ransford placed third in the 200-yard backstroke (1:43.71) and in the 100-yard butterfly (47.06), respectively. Junior Evan White, recently coming off of an injury, flirted with his personal best of 46.56 in the 100-yard butterfly (47.06), taking sixth in the event this weekend. Coming in seventh for the Big Ten in the 100-yard freestyle (44.15) was junior Paul Powers.
Powers had the highest finish for Michigan’s men’s swimming on Sunday with a second-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle (19.79), his best time in this event so far this season. Ransford took third in the 1,000-yard freestyle (8:55.40) while Swanson placed seventh (9:22.93). Michigan had another top-three finish with White taking third in the 200-yard individual medley (1:46.63). In the 100-yard backstroke, Papendick finished fifth with a time of 47.41.
And the Wolverine women had exceptional performances too. Junior Gabby DeLoof competed against her sister and former Michigan teammate Ali DeLoof in the 400-yard freestyle relay. Team USA won the event with a time of 3:11.64, with Ali DeLoof swimming as the leadoff. Finishing second, Haughey and Gabby DeLoof contributed to the Big Ten’s relay team as the third and fourth legs.
Sophomore Yirong Bi helped the Big Ten with a third-place finish in the 1,000-yard freestyle. Competing in the 100-yard medley backstroke was junior Clara Smiddy. Smiddy finished sixth behind Ali DeLoof, who beat the 51-second barrier with a time of 50.99 in the event.
“When you go down the line in almost every individual (event), we swam well,” Bottom said. “As a whole, the Big Ten swam and competed very well with a lot of best times.”
Though the Big Ten ultimately lost, multiple Big Ten relay teams set top collegiate times, demonstrating the potential strength of a future national team when some of these collegiate swimmers unite. Top times were recorded in the men’s 800-yard freestyle relay (6:19.08), the 400-yard medley relay (3:07.93) and the 400-yard freestyle relay (2:50.81). For the women, top times were recorded in the 400-yard medley relay (3:29.65), the 800-yard freestyle relay (7:00.40) and the 400-yard freestyle relay (3:13.29).
“The big lesson learned was that if you come together for a common goal, you can unite people,” Bottom said. “We stand in a world that’s really divided right now and it's fun to see what happened at the meet, where Big Ten teams that are competitive came together in a way that really was exemplary and what we’re trying to do as a country.”