Michigan coach Jim Richardson knew this weekend would be an opportunity for the women’s swimming and diving team to step forward.
And no one did as much as freshman Margaret Kelly at the Texas A&M Invitational.
In an exciting and stimulating environment at College Station, compliments of three top-10 teams competing, Kelly broke out in the pool this weekend, swimming to career-best times in all but one individual race she competed in.
Following the freshman’s lead, No. 10 Michigan (1,048 points) had an excellent meet, beating No. 9 Southern Methodist by 363 points to finish in second behind the fifth-ranked Aggies (1,282.5 points), who won the invitational after holding just a 24-point lead after day one.
“She is just a great racer,” Richardson said. “We knew that she was good, but she’s a whole lot better now than when we recruited her. . When she hits the water, she leaves it all in the pool.”
Kelly had her best race of the weekend in the 200-yard individual medley (2:00.63), breaking her career-best time by two-and-a-half seconds.
Kelly also established new career-best times in four other races: the 50-yard freestyle, the 100-yard butterfly, the 100-yard backstroke and the 200-yard backstroke.
And Michigan needed all the help it could get, racing against a top squad.
“Texas A&M is a powerhouse team,” Richardson said after the second day of competition. “They swim like one of the top three teams in the country. . We have nothing to be disappointed about in that regard.”
And that is particularly true with Kelly swimming the way she did. Four of her teammates – junior Justine Mueller (400-yard Individual medley), senior Lindsey Smith (200-yard freestyle), senior Kaitlyn Brady (100-yard butterfly) and sophomore Emily Brunemann (1,650-yard freestyle) – also swam well, all finishing with NCAA automatic-qualifying times. Kelly barely missed automatically qualifying for the NCAA championships, clocking a time of 54.09 in the 100-yard butterfly.
But Kelly’s impressive weekend is not something new for the freshman. At Ann Arbor’s Pioneer High School, Kelly led her team to three national championships and was honored as the Michigan high school swimmer of the year after both her junior and senior years.
“I think she’s got the body type for a fast swimmer,” her high school coach Dennis Hill said. “She’s very aggressive and really goes after it. She’s got really good strokes. She doesn’t really have any weaknesses. The way she moves in the pool is just amazing.”
Hill also noted her ability to swim a wide array of events, which is evident from Kelly’s performance at the invitational. With this versatility and strong swimming, Kelly fits in perfectly with the rest of the team.
“I think it’s easier to swim well when other people are swimming well,” Richardson said. “The swimmers just feed off of each other’s swims.”
And with what Richardson calls “another stepping stone” coming up at Eastern Michigan in two weeks, the Wolverines will wait and see who will step up this time.