While most of Michigan’s women’s swimming and diving team remained in Ann Arbor for a weekend of grueling mid-season practices, four particularly talented Wolverines made the trek to Minneapolis to compete in the U.S. Open, one of the most prestigious swim meets in the country.

Despite the high caliber of athletes at the Open, Michigan’s competitiors went into the event without interrupting their regular training schedule. They did not taper or shave down, which are typical practices when preparing for a big meet.

“We were racing to see how we could do in the mid-season,” coach Jim Richardson said. “I wanted to see how close to their personal best times they could come.”

The Wolverines came out of Minneapolis – their first attempt at long-course racing this year – with several outstanding achievements. One of the most significant of these was junior co-captain Anne Weilbacher’s 2004 Olympic Trials qualifying and NCAA consideration time of 1:02.75 in the 100-meter butterfly, which placed her fourth in the event. Richardson called this “a very good swim.”

Apart from Weilbacher’s Olympic Trial cut, this meet marked milestones for sophomore Amy McCullough and junior Kelli Stein. Each made it to finals for the first time in her career. Stein placed eighth in the 200 breaststroke, and 10th in the 100 breaststroke with a NCAA consideration time of 1:13.31. McCullough finished 14th in the 400 freestyle.

“Finaling is a tremendous accomplishment, particularly because they weren’t rested,” Richardson said. “It’s a big deal when you do that for the first time.”

Although the Wolverines’ times this weekend were exceptional, Richardson knows that his team must continue to work hard to attain similar results in upcoming meets.

“There is no correlation with the end of the season,” Richardson said. “If someone swam well at the Open, that’s great. If not, oh well.”

Richardson also believes that performances at this meet will give the swimmers the kick they need to come into the final stretch with strength.

“A bad swim is just motivation to improve at future meets,” Richardson explained. “And a good swim provides motivation to maintain your time.”

While this was not the most eagerly anticipated event on Michigan’s schedule, Richardson was still pleased with his swimmers’ efforts.

“It’s always fun to go to a meet like the U.S. Open,” Richardson said. “But it wasn’t a focal point.”

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