The Michigan men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams opened the semester Saturday with a sweep of the competition at a quad meet against Indiana, Duke and Georgia Tech, held at Georgia Tech.
The meet offered the Wolverines a particular advantage for later in the season. The Yellow Jackets will host the NCAA Championships this year, so Michigan will be familiar with the site when the event comes around.
“Coach (Mike) Bottom went out of his way to set up a meet at Georgia Tech so we could get a feel for the pool before we went to nationals,” senior Ali DeLoof said. “It’s really great he did that because we can work on turns, starts and really get a feel for the pool before we get to nationals.”
The victory was well earned by both teams, as they each kicked off the meet by dominating the 200-yard medley relay. Indiana proved to hold some of the toughest competition, but the Wolverines were better.
“Indiana won their share of events, but the events that they won, we were able to take second, third, fourth and add up points that would take away some of their advantage for the overall win,” Bottom said. “It was a great team win on both sides.”
On the women’s side, DeLoof and sophomores Clara Smiddy and Gillian Ryan as well as freshman Siobhan Haughey each claimed wins in two events. Smiddy finished with two ‘B’ cut times in the 100-yard backstroke and the 200-yard backstroke. Meanwhile, Ryan dominated the field in the 1,000-yard freestyle, winning by more than 10 seconds.
They were not the only ones who led the team to victory, as the Wolverines (4-0 Big Ten, 6-1 overall) showed depth in many events, especially the 200-yard freestyle, in which they took first, third, fourth and fifth.
Another standout was sophomore Emily Kopas, who took second in the 200-yard breaststroke and third in the 100-yard breaststroke.
The men’s team continued to uphold its undefeated dual-meet record this past weekend, as it has not lost a dual since November 2010.
Much like the women, the men (4-0, 7-0) showed strong depth in their events. Sophomore PJ Ransford won the 1,000-yard freestyle with junior Cameron Stitt taking second and sophomore Ian Rainey placing fourth.
The 500-yard freestyle also provided points for the Wolverines. Senior Anders Lie Nielsen took first followed by Ransford in second, while their teammates, Stitt and Rainey, took fourth and fifth, respectively.
Among the standouts was sophomore Paul Powers, a Georgia native, who won the 50-yard freestyle.
“That was my home pool where all my state championships were,” Powers said. “Along with a bunch of other important meets as well. The pool itself carries a lot of really good memories, and I think just swimming there once before nationals is going to be such a help to the entire team.
“Once you’ve swam in the pool, you learn it. You’re ahead of the learning curve, ahead of the competition.”
Though the scores show Michigan’s dominance, skill and focus, the Wolverines fought hard until the last athlete touched the wall in the 400-yard freestyle to end the meet. Both the men and the women claimed first in the event and the meet overall — but for the men, the final race was a huge determining factor in the outcome.
“A lot of times in a dual meet, it comes down to the last race,” Powers said. “That relay carries so many points with the win that it can be a crucial point, especially if you’re a lot closer than you think it is. We were really close with Indiana pretty much the whole meet. Going into the 400-yard relay, we knew that we had to win it in order to win the meet. We ended up pulling through, and that was incredible.”
This meet also marked the halfway point of the season, leaving two meets until the Big Ten Championships, which, for the women, is at home at Canham Natatorium in mid-February.
“We’re in a really hard phase of training right now, but everyone swam great this weekend,” DeLoof said. “We all had each other’s backs, and we’re a really cohesive group. It was a really good measurement to see where we are at going forward.”