Junior Chris DeJong of the Michigan men’s swimming and diving team played multiple sports growing up. Yet he chose to pursue swimming because of its candidness.

“You get out of (swimming) exactly what you put in,” DeJong said.

Through his first two years at Michigan, DeJong had to adjust from the light workout program in high school to the intense program at Michigan, but he still managed to find quick success. Over the past two seasons, DeJong has received four honorable mention All-America awards, and he made the All-Big Ten second team during his freshman year.

Last season, DeJong earned All-America honors in the 400-meter medley relay, but his star shined brightest during the Big Ten Championships, where he won the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 1:41.78, a Big Ten record.

Still, DeJong believes that he can perform at an even higher level this year.

“I feel like I made a lot of progress over the summer,” DeJong said. “The high-mileage program here took me a while to get used to it, but I think, toward the end of last year and over the summer, I got used to the training.”

DeJong’s extra work during the summer, when he stayed in Ann Arbor for informal training with other swimmers on the team, has come around full circle this season. Recently named Big Ten Swimmer of the Week on Jan. 11, DeJong has swum masterfully in many of his events, posting 14 individual wins.

Last weekend, DeJong took both the 100- and 200-yard backstroke events and played a key role in cementing the Wolverines’ victory against Indiana by anchoring the 800-yard freestyle relay.

Michigan coach Bob Bowman knows exactly what DeJong brings to his team and the impact he has had this season.

“We depend on (DeJong) to win, and he does with great regularity,” Bowman said. “He’s one of the premier swimmers, and he swims like it.”

While awards fit nicely on shelves and records make for excellent stories later in life, DeJong doesn’t worry about the recognition. He swims for an entirely different reason.

“The best thing that I’ll take away from swimming when I’m done here is the camaraderie with the team, the bond that we make,” DeJong said. “We go through hell together, training through the first week of school to April.”

While not a team captain this season, DeJong knows that he can still help the younger swimmers while they adjust to college.

“I try to lead by example,” DeJong said. “(The freshmen) are a very blue collar group, and they work very hard. I try to show them how it’s done in the pool. I try to show them how we train here.”

With just one year left at Michigan, DeJong has just now started to consider his career options. If he can continue training at a high level, he may try to swim in the 2008 Summer Olympics. But as of right now, only the present concerns him.

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