The Michigan swimming and diving team is set to compete in its first meet of the season Friday at Michigan State. But, for 35 to 40 members of the men’s and women’s teams, this season will be a bit different.
Now, they also have to prepare for their respective countries’ Olympic trials.
The team has adjusted the pool at Canham Natatorium to incorporate longer distances than usual, since long course is the competition format in the Olympics. These types of practices, and meets such as Friday’s, which is also long course, help improve the fitness of the whole team before the season begins.
“We are putting in some good yardage in long course just to get us into shape,” said women’s team senior Marni Oldershaw. “That also helps later in the year for Olympic trials. My club team, which is where I was for the last Olympics, didn’t have a long-course pool. This is more opportunity for long course than I’ve ever had in my life.”
Two Wolverines, men’s team senior Anders Nielsen and women’s team freshman Siobhan Haughey, have already qualified to represent Denmark and Hong Kong, respectively, next summer.
Twenty post-graduates who have been cleared by the NCAA and the Big Ten to train with the team in their own quests to make their respective Olympic teams.
“It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the college season,” Oldershaw said. “It’s a great thing to be able to do, but having those post-grads and professionals there on a daily basis is kind of a reminder that there is a little bit left at the end of the season that we need to prepare for.”
In December, team will also travel to the USA Swimming National Championships, which have switched from short course to long course for the Olympic year.
“What this does is it brings back some of the swimmers that have gone through the system,” said Michigan coach Mike Bottom. “We’ll bring our post-grads and undergrads so what that does, it just elevates competition. It makes it very difficult to make it into the finals, but if you make it into the finals, you’re swimming against the best in the world.”
Canada and many other countries hold their trials after the college season has ended in the United States. Michigan swimmers who will be participating in these trials will be altering their training to be ready for both the end of the college season and their national team tryouts. The Americans, though, have time to train between the end of the college season and the trials in late June.
“When we prepare them for NCAAs, we have to prepare them with an understanding that they have to swim fast at Big Tens, NCAAs and their trials,” Bottom said. “There’s a lot of thought that goes into that, and some additional aerobic yardage during some of the tapers so that we can extend that taper time.”
Though the Wolverines are focused on the collegiate season, for many of the swimmers the dream of representing their nations in Rio de Janeiro this coming summer remains in the backs of their minds.