For Michigan swimmers Brendan Neligan and Andrew Hurd, life so far this year has been good. Not only have the two freshmen consistently finished 1-2 in most of their races, but they have also developed a friendship out of the pool that has helped them adjust to life at Michigan.
Although they compete in the same races and often finish a fraction of a second apart, the two swimmers” personalities could not be more different. Hurd”s quiet, soft spoken mannerisms were even more visible as he stood next to his energetic and talkative roommate, Neligan.
“It”s kind of a love/hate relationship between me and Andrew,” Neligan said.
The two standout distance swimmers didn”t end up living together by chance. Michigan coach Jon Urbanchek had a lot in mind when he assigned Neligan and Hurd to live in the same room this year.
“One is a New York City guy and the other is from Toronto,” Urbanchek said. “We”ve got an extrovert and introvert, so I was hoping they”d balance and help each other out.”
Even though they had never met before coming to Michigan, the two freshmen struck up a friendship quickly and learned to help each other adjust to University life.
“(Living together) helped him out a lot the first two months of the year because he could never wake up on time,” Neligan said of his roommate. “Andrew”s the messier one and I”m the cleaner one.”
Hurd conceded this fact, but said: “We still have the cleanest room.”
The two teammates have not only woken each other up and picked up after one another this year, but they also have pushed each other in competition and established themselves as the leaders of the Michigan distance swimmers. As part of one of the most talented incoming classes in the nation, Neligan and Hurd have taken advantage of their strong relationship in and out of the pool to raise their level of competition.
“I always can depend on Andrew and I think Andrew can depend on me,” Neligan said. “The other day, we were swimming against Penn State and I told him, “Andrew, I don”t really feel that great, I might need your help here,” and he was there for me.”
Both swimmers have international experience: Hurd swam for Canada in the Olympics and Neligan medalled in the World University Games last summer. But despite the fact that they are already accomplished swimmers, Neligan and Hurd are still freshman and still feel the pressure that comes with entering a whole new environment with many different and higher expectations.
“There”s a lot of pressure on them, a lot of expectation,” Urbanchek said. “But that”s the choice you make when you come to Michigan. You”ve got to step forward, and you”ve got to do the job we brought you here for.”
For the two distance swimmers, that job is filling the shoes of Chris Thompson, last year”s NCAA champion in the 1,650-yard freestyle and bronze medallist at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
Thompson”s graduation opened the door for Neligan and Hurd to step up, and Urbanchek agreed the task would not be easy.
“They”re doing real well,” Urbanchek said. “Being a freshman, it”s not easy to be in a leadership role. I expect them to lead in the pool. They don”t have to lead out of the pool yet. They can let their swimming do the talking.”
“I think we”re fitting into the puzzle real tightly, It”s only going to bring about better things in February and March,” Neligan said.
The entire team is looking forward to the end of the season and the chance to claim a Big Ten title. Neligan and Hurd agreed that the team title is most important, but weren”t afraid to admit that there will be a little rivalry between them at the end of the season.
“Come Big Tens and NCAAs, we want to win the team title, but it”s going to be on between me and him,” Neligan said.
Hurd just smiled, his silence not an indication of weakness but rather a quiet intensity that balances his teammate and roommate”s outgoing personality.