Three NCAA consideration times and a pair of third place finishes in the first two days of competition alone would have made any meet one to remember for Melissa Jaeger.
But the fifth-year senior saved her crowning performance for Sunday’s final solo event, recording a 1:56.77 time to shatter the Big Ten record in the 200-meter butterfly.
The record run capped a true team effort as No. 13 Michigan took second place, 1,561-1,145.5, behind the No. 6 Texas A&M at the Art Adamson Invitational in College Station. No. 12 Southern Methodist finished third with 841.5 points.
“I swam my races not thinking about anything – just trying to go fast,” said Jaeger, who transferred to Michigan from Oakland University in 2006.
Jaeger’s torrid pace helped her to best the previous conference record by more than a full second and secured an invite to NCAA Championships in March. Jaeger’s race also eclipsed the previous Michigan record of 1:57.90, set by junior Payton Johnson at the 2007 NCAA Championships.
“I knew she was going to be very good, but her (200-meter butterfly) was a little faster than I even thought she could go,” Michigan coach Jim Richardson said.
Even though Jaeger turned in the weekend’s standout achievement, she was hardly the only Wolverine swimmer to claim a successful performance. The team exhibited consistency in the meet’s six sessions.
Michigan set a positive tone on Friday, with sophomores Emily Hanson and Margaret Kelly, junior Emily Brunemann and senior Justine Mueller combining for five automatic qualification times and two second-place finishes.
Richardson was pleased with the early performance, even though the Wolverines trailed both Texas A&M and Southern Methodist.
“I don’t really worry about winning events,” Richardson said. “It’s about swimming fast and trying to improve your performance. If you swim a great race and get touched out in the end, that’s still a great race.”
The Wolverines finally broke through for a victory on Saturday when Kelly touched the wall first in the 100-meter butterfly final after notching an automatic qualifying time in the event’s preliminary heat. Brunemann and Mueller also both recorded ‘A’ times and the team upped its two-day total of NCAA ‘B’ consideration times to 29 while passing Southern Methodist for second place.
On Sunday, Brunemann and Mueller completed their NCAA invite trifectas with quick dips in the 1,650-yard freestyle and 200-meter breaststroke, respectively.
On the diving board, senior Elyse Lee recorded her second victory and NCAA zone qualifying score before Jaeger’s dominant butterfly run closed out the Invitational’s solo slate.
The Wolverines were enthusiastic following the weekend’s strong performance, but Jaeger was quick to reiterate the thinking that has become somewhat of a team mantra:
“It felt pretty good to win,” she said. “But the real challenge is to keep up the times we we’re getting now at the end of the year.”