Last Saturday, before beginning its post-season training, the Michigan women’s swimming and diving team suffered a heartbreaking 153-147 loss at the hands of Notre Dame.
The Wolverines were on their way to victory, winning four of the first five events against a tough pack of Fighting Irish. But they began to slip after Notre Dame’s victory in the 200-yard butterfly, and halfway through the contest, the score was tied at 75. No. 19 Michigan (3-3) struggled to keep up for the remainder of the meet, and despite victories in seven events, lost to No. 18 Notre Dame by a mere six points
“We haven’t beaten Notre Dame in four or five years,” Michigan coach Jim Richardson said. “So we knew this meet would be back and forth. Every swim mattered.”
Michigan learned this lesson the hard way. The swimmers went into the last two events of the competition with an eight- point lead, and let victory slip away. The Fighting Irish’s Marie Labosky edged out Michigan’s Sara Johnson in the 200-yard individual medley. The Wolverines still had a shot at victory if they placed first in the 200-yard freestyle relay.
Victory, it seems, was not in the cards for Michigan, as it was edged out by a miniscule .3 seconds.
“We really thought we could win that relay,” Richardson said. “I really thought we’d do it. But they had a great lead-off, and we had a bad turn. We might’ve had it if the pool was five yards longer.”
Michigan’s relay defeat came as a shock to Richardson.
“It was like we had cooked the dinner, and set the table, and just as we were about to sit down, they jumped in our chairs and ate all the food!” he said.
This was a disappointing loss for Michigan, but the meet did not lack outstanding performances.
“I thought we competed better this week than we did against Northwestern, even though we won that meet,” Richardson said.
The Wolverines placed first in seven events, including the 200-yard medley relay, the 1,650-yard freestyle and the 200-yard freestyle, and achieved several NCAA consideration cuts.
One swimmer who attained her consideration time was Junior Emily-Clare Fenn. Fenn bettered her personal best this season in the 1,650-yard freestyle with a 16:40.28.
“Emily has been very, very strong over the past three weeks,” Richardson said. “She’s been swimming the 1,650 pretty regularly, and hasn’t had a bad race yet.”
Wolverines Amy McCullough and Anne Weilbacher also swam NCAA consideration times.
Junior diver Tealin Kelemen placed second in the one-meter event, but still managed to pull off an automatic NCAA qualifying score of 267.52.
The Notre Dame dual meet brought the Wolverines’ regular season to a close and marked the beginning of an 18-day break before the Big Ten Championships. Currently, Michigan has its sights set on a peak performance at Big Tens.
“Right now, we’re resting and tapering,” Richardson said. “I’d like to think that we could get nine girls to the NCAA Championships. If we could do that, that’d be outstanding.”