After a near upset, the Michigan men’s swimming and diving team was anything but.
Despite posting a 1-2 record over the past two days, the Wolverines were satisfied with the results of their West Coast weekend after a surprisingly strong showing against two top-five NCAA teams.
After traveling to Tuscon, Ariz., on Friday from its training camp in Mexico, No. 12 Michigan swam to a one-point loss against No. 5 Arizona. The Wolverines also swam an exhibition against No. 3 California before competing against the Golden Bears for points in Saturday’s short-course meet.
Each event in Friday’s long-course competition was divided into two scoring heats, with the fastest seeds from each team competing in the second heat.
Sophomore Curtis Dauw, competing in the first heat of the 200-meter butterfly, clocked a faster time than all second-heat swimmers to win the event. The Wolverines completed the sweep with junior Alex Vanderkaay in second and junior Dane Grenda in third.
Michigan coach Bob Bowman described the recent meet schedule as “hectic” due to long travel days and the intensity of the team’s training.
“It was a great challenge for them,” Bowman said. “We want to get the best possible performances under the worst possible conditions. That’s a good way to train your team. Anybody can swim fast when the conditions are perfect, but teams who can really give their best performances when the conditions are less than ideal are the ones who really succeed in the long run.”
The following day, in Tempe, Michigan defeated No. 21 Arizona State, 164-136, but lost to California, 173-127. Freshman Scott Spann won the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke events, concluding his weekend with wins in every breaststroke event he entered.
Sophomore Matt Patton, who won the 400- and 800-meter freestyle on Friday and the 1,000-yard freestyle on Saturday, said his team surpassed expectations against both teams.
“It was definitely a disadvantage, living out of a suitcase and going from hotel to hotel,” Patton said. “Going in, we knew it would be a tough battle, and I think it came a lot closer than we thought. I don’t think Arizona or (California) thought twice about us, but we were within one point (against Arizona).”
On Friday, Michigan lost by just three points while swimming exhibition against California in a 50-meter pool. Comparing the Wolverines’ close exhibition results to their official 50-point short course loss, Bowman said his team’s weaknesses were exposed in the 25-yard pool.
“Right now, what separates us from (California) or Arizona is their work on the walls,” Bowman said. “When we swam in a 50-meter pool, we were right there, dead even with them . but (the difference) is largely to do with turns, underwater kicking and starts, so those are the things we’ll be trying to improve.”
Spann said the success of Michigan’s competitions against the three teams will provide a “great boost” for Friday’s Big Ten meet against Purdue. His victories, along with the strong performances of his teammates, proved the Wolverines could work through the toughest traveling of their season with respectable results.
“We were the underdogs, and we surprised the competition,” Spann said. “We grabbed the attention of other programs around the country, which was a big step for what we’re trying to accomplish here – we want to be a national championship team.”