The Michigan women’s swimming and diving team took to the pool at Canham Natatorium early Saturday morning for the Maize and Blue Invitational, the first competition for the Wolverines this year.

No individual statistics were recorded for the exhibition, in which the team was divided into Maize and Blue teams.

The Wolverines were joined in the pool by alumni, and the presence of the former swimmers established a relaxed environment in the pool. But the meet’s laid-back attitude did not stop some of the Wolverines from having strong performances.

The Maize team won the meet and the coveted 650-yard freestyle Pineapple Relay. The winner of the Pineapple Relay receives a case of pineapples, a tradition that stems from Christmas training in Hawaii against other Big Ten schools.

“The girls are amazed at how great they look, how fit they are, and fast they still are,” assistant coach Stefanie Kerska said of the alumni.

Juniors Margaret Kelly and Emily Hanson had solid swims in the exhibition.

“It’s nice for them to get into the swing of things before they have real competition,” Kerska said. “We’ve had some competitive races here with the freshmen.”

The team features 10 incoming freshmen hoping to contribute to the Wolverines’ success, with two who competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb., this summer.

Senior Emily Brunemann will be the Wolverines’ strongest returning swimmer. Brunemann won the NCAA championship in the 1,650-yard freestyle last season, four seconds ahead of the field.

Last season, the Wolverines finished second to Minnesota at the Big Ten title meet and ninth at the NCAA Championships. This season, Michigan’s main goal is to bring the Big Ten title back to Ann Arbor after a four-year hiatus.

Senior leadership will be crucial to the Michigan’s postseason performance, with a large freshman class coming in this year.

“They have really embraced the freshmen,” Kerska said of the seniors. “I think they’re going to be the reason for the success of this team.”

In addition to Brunemann, seniors Payton Johnson and Christine Nichols will be returning with hopes of ending their collegiate careers with a Big Ten title.

The Wolverines’ stiffest competition will come from the defending Big Ten champion Minnesota in their first dual meet of the season.

“It’s going to take every single person exceeding their own goals (to win Big Tens),” Kerska said.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.