In the few months that freshman Pete Vanderkaay has been a part of the men’s swimming and diving team, he has racked up accolades that would impress even the most accomplished of athletes. He has NCAA consideration times in the 200, 500 and 1650-yard freestyle events. This past weekend, he placed first in four events.

Under such circumstances, many athletes, especially younger ones, would crumble under the pressure to perform. But Vanderkaay is thriving in the competitive environment that a top-notch swimming program like Michigan’s creates.

“I’ve been swimming for so long that adapting to the pressure has just become natural for me,” Vanderkaay said. “I think the pressure is fun – and pretty exciting.”

And pressure does not simply exist before a big meet or championship race; at Michigan, swimmers race through every set, at every practice too.

“I think the racing at practice works out well because it helps us to push each other to succeed,” Vanderkaay said.

Many would not enjoy training under such intense conditions, but once again, this swimmer contradicts the norm.

“I guess what keeps me going is the thrill of racing,” Vanderkaay said. “We’re really spending a lot of time in the pool, and if you don’t enjoy some aspect of the sport, you’ve got a long road ahead of you.”

Apart from spending several hours a day with his teammates training, traveling and competing, Vanderkaay also rooms with teammate, Tyler DeBerry.

“I think rooming with guys on the team is probably better for us,” Vanderkaay said. “Sometimes you might want to get away, but I haven’t had any trouble.”

Both Vanderkaay and DeBerry were recruited by coach Jon Urbanchek, but Vanderkaay had several reasons for wanting to attend Michigan.

“I was looking at U of M before I knew I was being recruited, because it’s such a great school,” he said. “Plus my brother goes here, so that was a plus.”

Vanderkaay’s brother, Christian, is a junior who had to be redshirted this season after surgery, but the freshman enjoys having an older sibling around.

“I’m glad that he’s here,” Pete said. “He’s helped me adapt to life here, and he has a car, which is nice.”

Vanderkaay is already one of the fastest Wolverines in the pool, but he has not let his success get to his head.

“I just want to help the team as much as I can,” he said.

After disappointing losses to Stanford and California, the Wolverines are ready to take on some competition at home.

“It’s never fun to lose, but I think that it will help us to get fired up for upcoming meets,” Vanderkaay said.

Michigan will need his assistance and upbeat attitude when it takes on Indiana and Ohio State, as well as the rest of the Big Ten in February.

“We haven’t won the Big Ten Championships in two years because Minnesota has been really strong,” Vanderkaay explained. “So that is definitely a team goal this season.”

Urbanchek had only positive things to say about the exceptional contributions that Vanderkaay has made.

“Vanderkaay really is nothing but awesome,” Urbanchek said. “He has the best attitude – and performances to match.”

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