For fifth-year senior Emily Brunemann, the return to the pool Friday was met with great relief. It had been 566 days since her last meet as a member of the Michigan women’s swimming and diving team, where she stood atop the podium at the 2008 NCAA Championships to accept her award for her first-place finish in the 1,650-yard freestyle.
Last season, Brunemann was ruled ineligible to compete for the Wolverines after she took what she thought was a laxative but was actually a banned diuretic. The NCAA champion began a voluntary sentence prior to the 2008-09 season and then received a six-month suspension from competition by the American Arbitration Association (AAA). Brunemann had her eligibility reinstated after it was determined that the substance couldn’t have improved her performance and its use couldn’t have been used to mask other banned substances.
It didn’t take long for Brunemann to make a splash at the meet. In just the second event of Saturday’s dual meet, Brunemann captured the 1,000-yard freestyle event title. Brunemann’s main competition was from her teammate, senior Emily Hanson, who finished in second place. Brunemann bested the field by three seconds in the 200-yard freestyle, which immediately followed her first race.
“I look forward to finishing my collegiate swimming career and proving that my first-place finishes at the 2008 NCAA Championships and at the 2008 United States National Championships were based on my hard work and dedication,” Brunemann told the Athletic Department in March.
Led by Brunemann’s three individual victories, the Wolverines started the season with a victory against Notre Dame, 165-133.
“Swimming fast was a struggle today, but if we hadn’t had close races with them, I don’t think we would have won,” Michigan coach Jim Richardson told the Athletic Department. “All in all, it was a really good competition for where we were in our training cycle.”
Michigan returns a wealth of experience to this year’s team. Brunemann and Hanson represented the United States at the 2009 World Championships in Rome earlier this summer. Brunemann placed ninth in the open water 5,000-meter race and Hanson finished in 15th place.
“It is good to have (Brunemann) back again, that goes without saying,” Richardson said. “She is a tough competitor, and she likes to race and likes to win. It was good to see her win back-to-back races and get two pretty good times.”
Prior to the dual meet, the Wolverines competed at the Dennis Stark Relays on Friday in South Bend, Ind. The meet consisted of only relay events and allowed the team to see its first action of the season. The team dominated the field by finishing first in all but one of the 10 races.
Michigan’s dominant performance Friday sparked the Wolverines the next day against the Fighting Irish. Freshman Mattie Kukors earned her first collegiate victory in the 200-yard backstroke and then touched first in the 400-yard individual medley.
Kukors is one of 10 freshmen that will add depth to the program.
“They want to contribute,” Richardson said. “They want to make a difference. They see areas where they can find a niche and compete and they are focused on that every day in practice.”