The 2002-03 season has been good to the Michigan men’s swimming and diving team. In the beginning, Michigan defeated top ranked Texas, putting it in the No. 1 spot for several weeks. Ten swimmers have at least one NCAA consideration time, while diver Jason Coben has an automatic NCAA qualifying score. Currently, the Wolverines are No. 4 in the nation and looking toward an event that will require a greater team effort than any other meet this year: the Big Ten Championships.

“This is truly a team championship,” Michigan coach Jon Urbanchek said. “The object is to have all the athletes place in the top 16 so that they can score.”

In order to do this, Michigan will have to pick up its already rapid pace.

“We’re very strong at the top end, but the swimmers at the tail end need to improve so that they can score some points,” Urbanchek said.

And indeed, the Wolverines will have to be in top condition if they hope to defeat Big Ten rival Minnesota. The Golden Gophers have won the Big Ten Championship the last two years, but Urbanchek hopes that a home-pool advantage and a stellar season will help propel the Wolverines to victory. This year’s competition will be held at Michigan’s Canham Natatorium, which Urbanchek views as a definite plus.

“The last time the Big Ten Championships were here, we won,” he said. “Hopefully history will repeat itself.”

But the Wolverines realize that winning the Big Ten championship is a tall order. Urbanchek estimates that they will need a huge score of 700 points to win the meet.

“The entire Big Ten has improved a lot, especially Northwestern and Wisconsin,” Urbanchek said. “And on paper, Minnesota is the favorite to win.”

Fueled by the pressure to perform, hearty helpings of Clif Bars, and large doses of Vitamin C, Michigan is working on making the most of its taper in hopes of fulfilling all of its coach’s goals. During a taper, swimmers reduce yardage week by week, until they eventually end up completing about 30% of what they swam at the height of conditioning. This decreased yardage is coupled with race visualization to ensure peak performance during post-season meets.

“We just don’t want anyone to over visualize their event,” Urbanchek said. “We don’t want too much anxiety.”

To combat any angst, the swimmers attempt to follow a set of guidelines, involving lots of rest and fine-tuning of starts, turns and finishes, created to compliment the taper.

Urbanchek believes that having the meet over Winter Break will allow the swimmers to devote their entire focus to swimming well.

“Having the Big Ten meet during break is ideal,” he said. “They can sleep in a little, they don’t have to be concerned about missing school; they have no worries whatsoever.” “Except they need to win this meet.”

This year, Michigan’s end result will depend largely on the performances of a few very talented freshmen.

“Although everyone contributes, the freshmen class is carrying the destiny of the team,” Urbanchek said. “They are really a pleasure to have on the team.”

For Urbanchek, the goals of this meet are twofold.

“As a team, we want to win Big Ten’s, but we also want to qualify as many guys as we can for NCAA’s,” he explained.

In order to do this, Urbanchek is hoping for the support of all Wolverines.

“Anyone not going to Cancun for break, and staying in Ann Arbor spending time studying at the library should come out for Big Ten’s,” he said. “It should be a great meet.”

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