This weekend, the Michigan men’s and women’s swim and dive teams headed to Seattle for the AT&T Winter Nationals. There, the Wolverines swam for NCAA automatic and provisional qualifying times, while also aiming for Olympic trial qualifying times.
The midseason meet was a huge success for the Wolverines, as a heightened playing field — which included Olympians Michael Phelps, Matt Grevers, Allison Schmitt and Missy Franklin — and strong team dynamic pushed the Wolverines to rise to the occasion.
“It was a great meet for our teams as a whole, as about 70 men and women traveled,” said Michigan coach Mike Bottom. “(It was) a really good team-building weekend as well. The athletes were up on their feet cheering for each other and showed a very strong support for each other.”
The races took place under different conditions than usual, as the team swam in a 50-meter pool compared to the collegiate standard 25-yard. Those times that qualified for the national meet would be converted to short-course yards for the NCAA.
“This meet was a little bit different because it’s an Olympic year,” Bottom said. “We swam long-course, which is a 50-meter pool, because the Olympic distance is 50 meters. We’ll get better adjusting to this distance as we get closer to American Olympic trials for Rio.”
Together, the teams placed first, but when divided, the fifth-ranked women placed second in the overall collegiate scoring, and the fourth-ranked men took first.
The women’s team broke a total of nine program records, and nine individuals met qualifying times for the American Olympic trials. Among those to qualify was freshman Siobhán Haughey. Over the three days, she took three program records and had the sixth-most points of any women’s swimmer at the meet. No other collegiate swimmer had earned more.
In addition, Haughey swam in two event finals within 30 minutes of each other, setting a record in the 200-meter individual medley and missing the other mark by just 0.01 seconds.
Haughey was not the only standout, as sophomore Emily Kopas broke the long-standing 200-meter breaststroke record and the 100-meter breaststroke record. Joining her was sophomore Gillian Ryan, who placed third in the 800-meter freestyle, and sophomore Clara Smiddy, who took sixth place in the 200-meter backstroke and broke a record herself.
Senior Ali DeLoof finished second to Franklin by less than a tenth of a second in the 100-meter backstroke and lowered her personal best, and program record, even further.
On the men’s side, Michigan put up a strong front. Five of the top-20 finishers in the 200-meter backstroke were Wolverines. Individually, six men qualified for the Olympic trials. The results showed a strong growth in many athletes.
“We saw great performances from all levels.” Bottom said. “Everyone stepped up. It was not just the top levels that performed the best.”
The men’s team had many top-10 finishes, including sophomore PJ Ransford, who took second in the 1,500-meter freestyle and bested the Olympic trials cut by about 30 seconds. Ransford also placed 10th in the 400-meter freestyle and made the Olympic trial cut as well. He was one of four Wolverines to qualify for the Olympic trials in that event alone. This included sophomore Ian Rainey, who also earned a top-10 finish in the 1,500-meter freestyle and took ninth overall in the 400-meter individual medley.
Sophomore Evan White and senior Dylan Bosch earned ninth and 10th, respectively, in the 200-meter individual medley. Bosch went on to take sixth in the 200-meter butterfly, finishing three seconds behind Phelps.
The meet proved to be a fine marker for where the team stands, and it posed a challenging stage that many Wolverines used to improve their times. The opportunity to swim in Seattle was a valuable experience for swimmers of every tenure.
“This was a really long meet,” Bottom said. “But it’s really an exceptional opportunity for us to be here at this year’s nationals all the way out here in Seattle. We’re really fortunate to have Michigan support us to come out this way, and our Olympic effort.”