For a team that wasn’t highly regarded by swimming’s
elite at the beginning of the season, the Michigan women’s
swimming and diving team proved to the nation that it is worthy of
respect and recognition. The Wolverines concluded the NCAA
Championships in College Station, Texas, this weekend in 13th place
with 114.5 points. They started off the season ranked No. 23 in the
nation and moved up to 16th by the end of the regular season.
Michigan improved its regular-season ranking by three spots in its
championship performance.

“I was extremely proud of the girls performance this
weekend,” Michigan coach Jim Richardson said. “Everyone
had exceptional races and all nine of our swimmers were honored as
All-Americans. It was a great conclusion for a team that
wasn’t predicted to do much this year. I think we proved to
everyone that we are a powerful squad.”

While it was a memorable meet for the Wolverines, it was also an
NCAA Swimming and Diving Championship that went down in the record
books. The meet produced two world records, nine American records
and 12 U.S. Open and NCAA records in every single event. Not to
mention it was the highest-scored meet since 1993.

“The NCAA Championships is usually exciting, but this year
is special since everyone is trying to qualify for the Olympic
Trials,” Richardson said. “That’s why so many
more records were broken this year compared to past
years.”

Auburn won its third consecutive national championship with a
total of 569 points, the most since 1993 when Stanford finished
with 649.5 points. Georgia was runner-up with 431 points, followed
by Arizona (369), Florida (253) and Stanford (237). Big Ten rivals
Wisconsin and Indiana finished ahead of Michigan — in 10th
and 12th place, respectively.

“I think we probably could have finished 11th overall,
team-wise,” Richardson said. “We swam so much faster
than we did at the Big Ten Championships, but with only nine
swimmers who qualified, it’s hard to produce a whole bunch of
points.”

Richardson was most proud of the 800-meter freestyle relay squad
of freshman Lindsey Smith, freshman Susan Gilliam, junior Amy
McCullough and senior Emily-Clare Fenn, who closed the
weekend’s competition with a seventh-place finish in the
event in a time of 7:58.62.

“It was the most emotional event of the weekend for
us,” Richardson said. “It was about 9:30 at night, the
last event of a tough weekend, everyone was really tired from
swimming in their events earlier in the day, and we had to produce
four exceptional 200-meter freestyle swims. The girls really pulled
it together and swam an amazing race.”

Richardson was most proud of freshmen Gilliam and Smith, both of
whom qualified for the finals in both of their events. Gilliam
qualified for the championship final in the 400-meter freestyle on
Thursday with a preliminary time of 4:07.07, and finished eighth at
the evening finals. Later in the meet, Gilliam placed 22nd in the
200-meter freestyle. Smith was Michigan’s top finisher in the
200-meter freestyle with a 12th place showing. After qualifying for
the consolation final with a time of 1:59.39, Smith finished the
evening race in 1:59.43.

“They both had one of the fastest meets of their
lives,” Richardson said. “It will be so exciting to see
them grow over the next three seasons.”

Richardson also commended Fenn for her performance. Fenn earned
her third career NCAA All-America Honorable Mention award after
finishing ninth in the 400-meter freestyle on Thursday. Fenn later
went on to take sixth in the 1,650-meter freestyle.

Richardson admits that it’s difficult ending the season
and having to bid farewell to the seniors. However, although
college competition has concluded, Richardson now gets to spend a
little more time with his athletes as Michigan will continue
training in hopes of qualifying several swimmers for the Olympic
Trials in June. Smith and senior co-captains Anne Weilbacher and
Sara Johnson have already qualified for the trials.

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