The No. 9 Michigan men’s swimming and diving team will
make the short trip to Ypsilanti today for its season opener
against Eastern Michigan. The Michigan program is very familiar
with the Eagles — the first meet dates back to the 1970-71
season — but six Wolverines, including head coach Bob Bowman,
are meeting Eastern Michigan for the first time.

This meet represents Bowman’s much-anticipated debut on
the college scene. He accepted the position as head coach after the
retirement of Jon Urbanchek at the conclusion of last season. The
meet also marks the first chance for freshmen Johnny Autstermann,
Grant Burtch, Dane Grenda, Dane Rook and Alex Vanderkaay to
represent the Maize and Blue in competition.

While Bowman did not have a role in recruiting any of the five
freshmen, he feels a special connection with the swimmers.

“There’s a unique bond that I will always have with
these guys,” Bowman said. “They are my first class of
athletes and we will get to learn and develop the program
together.”

Bowman is surprised and happy with how well the freshmen have
adapted in their roles as student-athletes and the way they have
bonded with the upperclassmen.

“The five guys have integrated well,” Bowman said.
“I think that is mainly due to the active role the captains
have played this year.”

While Bowman has had a great deal of coaching experience with
various teams around the country, he believes what makes this
freshman class stand out is its desire to achieve.

“I think they probably have the most positive attitude
about the sport and what they want to accomplish with it,”
Bowman said. “All five of them have a lot of potential with
their times and I think they will make the most of their
opportunities this year.”

In particular, Bowman points to Vanderkaay and Burtch as pivotal
freshmen to watch over the course of the season.

Vanderkaay, the younger brother of senior Christian and junior
Peter, joins the Wolverines with an impressive swimming
résumé most recently highlighted this summer by a
19th place finish at the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 200-meter
butterfly.

“Alex is a great addition to the team,” Bowman said.
“He is the type of swimmer that is expected to step up at the
top level and perform well. We have high hopes for him at the Big
Ten and NCAA Championships this year.”

Burtch, a breaststroker from Holland, has also compiled a list
of impressive accolades that make him a strong freshman leader this
year.

“I’m already impressed with the progress Burtch has
made this season,” Bowman said. “It will be exciting to
see him race.”

While Bowman isn’t particularly worried about the
competition, he is excited to get the chance to see the team race,
especially the freshmen.

“The meet will give us an opportunity to get a baseline of
performance to come back and work on,” Bowman said.
“It’s one thing to train day in and day out and
it’s another to actually compete. Racing puts everything
together and gives us an idea of what we are working
with.”

The meet starts today at 6 p.m. in the Michael J. Jones
Natatorium.

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