Payton Johnson and her teammates on the Michigan women’s swimming and diving team went into their meet against Georgia on Saturday with a positive attitude. But even that couldn’t keep the No. 14 Wolverines out of the wake of the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs.

Georgia, the defending national champions, dominated in the swimming events and defeated the Wolverines 170-122 at Canham Natatorium.

Johnson’s first-place finish in the 100-yard butterfly was one of the few bright spots for Michigan (1-0 Big Ten, 1-2 overall). The freshman looked crisp throughout the race and swam more powerfully than anyone else in the event.

“I just went into the race with a positive attitude,” Johnson said. “Even though we started off slowly as a team, it was important for me and my teammates to keep our heads up and improve over the course of the meet.”

But Johnson’s performance was an exception – most events involved one Georgia swimmer way out in front and then a race for second.

The Wolverines struggled in the opening event, the 200-yard medley relay. Michigan’s “A” relay team never looked relaxed in the pool and finished second, 1.26 seconds behind Georgia’s “A” squad.

“We were tight at the beginning of the meet,” Michigan coach Jim Richardson said. “I expected more from that medley relay team. They brought their ‘B-game’ against a team they needed to be perfect to beat.”

Richardson admitted that he grew more impatient as the meet progressed, but he said he was glad that his team did not give up after falling behind to a talented Georgia team.

At times, the coach struggled to hide his frustration, throwing his hands up in bewilderment when his athletes did not quite hit their marks.

Michigan continued to flounder in the pool, and many of the swimmers ran out of gas at the end of their events.

Richardson attributed his team’s fatigue to the tough training regiment the team maintained last week. While the coach called the team’s training efforts its best of the season, he did acknowledge that it might have resulted in the team’s lackluster showing.

Still, Richardson is confident that his team can be in the top-10 at the NCAA Championships in March. The coach knows that the tough losses against quality teams like Georgia (4-0) will be forgotten when February and March roll around.

“This meet is just part of a foundation for us to peak at NCAA championships,” Richardson said. “The team cannot get down after meets like this one. I told them that we were not going to compromise an important week of training just to look a little bit better against the defending national champions.”

Despite its struggles in the pool, Michigan excelled in the diving events. Sophomore Elyse Lee finished first in both the one-meter and three-meter springboard events. Her teammate Ellen Van Cleve took second in the one-meter and fourth in the three-meter.

“Elyse has all the tools,” Richardson said. “She has a great chance to score points for the team in the diving events at NCAA Championships.”

With an important meet on Saturday in Columbus against Ohio State and Purdue, the coach said he hopes that his team will not be discouraged by the loss to Georgia.

“We’ll know how they respond when they come in to train on Monday,” Richardson said. “If they walk through the door with their heads up and ready to work hard, I’ll be even more convinced of this team’s potential.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.