While herds of stressed-out undergrads embark on spring-break trips, Michigan men”s swimming coach Jon Urbanchek and his team will depart for the bitter-cold climate of Minneapolis, site of this year”s Big Ten Championships.
In the team”s history, Michigan has won the tournament 31 times, and this weekend the Wolverines hope to add one to the total. Since taking the reins in 1983, Urbanchek has accounted for 12 of those titles, including a streak of 10 consecutive from 1986-95.
Last year, with the championships home at Canham Natatorium, the Wolverines captured first place with 81 more points than runner-up Minnesota. Michigan dominated the competition with first-place finishes by Tim Siciliano and Jeff Hopwood in the 100-yard individual medley and 100-yard breaststroke.
Saturday saw Olympic bronze-medalist Chris Thompson set a pool record in the 1,650-yard freestyle as well as capture a second victory in the 500-yard freestyle. Thompson has won the two events every time since his freshman year and now looks to become the fourth swimmer in Big Ten history with four-straight titles in two individual events. Michigan has a history of dominance in the championships, owning records in 12 of the 18 swimming events. But as much as Urbanchek would like to bring another Big Ten trophy home to Ann Arbor, he admits that not all of this weekend”s focus will be on the competition.
In order to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament at the end of the year, collegiate swimmers must meet a certain qualifying standard for each event. Since Sep.1 marks the first date swimmers can obtain these times in competition, Thompson”s 1,500-meter freestyle performance in the Sydney Olympics was good enough to guarantee him a spot in the postseason. For all other Michigan swimmers, this weekend”s competition is when they hope to make the cut.
What makes this week so special is that this is the only time during the season the Wolverines will shave-down and taper in preparation for making these qualifying times. Consequently, the swimmers know the times they obtain at this tournament will be the ones deciding whether or not they attend the NCAA Tournament.
“We only shave and taper for one meet and that will be the conference championships,” said Urbanchek. “It”s a Michigan tradition.”