For Michigan senior Lindsay Carlberg, today will be her fourth trip in as many years to the NCAA Championships.
But by Saturday night, Carlberg will return from Austin, Texas – the site of this year’s NCAAs – no longer an official member of a Michigan swimming and diving team that depended on her leadership throughout her career.
“Any time you’ve spent four years with an athlete, it becomes a pretty poignant time for the University and us to see them go,” Michigan coach Jim Richardson said. NCAAs “will be a special time (with Carlberg), but I will remember the work-outs, the practices and the rest of her career just as well.”
Joining Carlberg in Austin are three young swimmers who will try to live up to the standards that she has set for the team. But Carlberg is optimistic, calling this “the hardest working team I have ever been a part of.”
Newcomers to the team this year, Amy McCullough and Kelli Stein, will make their first trip to NCAAs, competing in three and two events, respectively.
Sophomore Annie Weilbacher, who is currently on pace to match Carlberg’s four trips to NCAAs, will be swimming in the 100-yard freestyle and 100 breaststroke. With her ability to improve her times in every big race, including four different occasions this year when she bettered her career-bests, Weilbacher has the best chance of earning All-America status.
The only member of last year’s team to be named an All-American was Emily-Clare Fenn, who did not qualify for NCAAs this year.
“Annie’s been consistently improving all year long,” Richardson said. “Amy has a sore throat and a cold, but she’s in great shape and should be ready to go.”
Even though the Wolverines competing have a good shot at making the finals, this season has been about gradual improvement for Richardson’s young team.
“We’re just going to focus on seeing how well we can swim,” Richardson said. “As a coach I would love to see us place, but I’m not that concerned with it.
“I understand this is a moment of truth for some teams, but we don’t see this as live or die. Our team sees the big picture, and I hope at the end of (NCAAs) we will be swimming our best.”
That big picture is something that Richardson expects to be realized not only in the pool, but also in the classroom and the working world. His only senior competing at the meet this year, Carlberg, has met and exceeded his expectations concerning each of those aspects.
“Lindsay’s going to be a wonderful person wherever she goes in life,” Richardson said. “People come to our program to go to NCAAs. Those who have gone there consistently set the bar for the younger athletes. But Lindsay’s not only set it in the pool, but outside of it as well.”
Carlberg will compete in the 100-yard backstroke tomorrow, and will conclude on Saturday with the 200 backstroke. McCullough is the only individual to be competing today when she swims the 500 freestyle. Tomorrow she will race in the 200 free, and she has the 1,600 freestyle on the third day of competition. Both Weilbacher (100 free and 100 breaststroke) and Stein (100 and 200 breaststroke) will be competing in their respective events tomorrow and Saturday.