Victories over Georgia and Indiana this weekend gave the Michigan”s men swimming team a 4-0 record for the first time since 1994-95. That team went on to win the NCAA championship, but coach Jon Urbanchek doesn”t foresee the same outcome this year.
“There won”t be an NCAA title, I guarantee you that one,” Urbanchek said, adding that while he thinks Michigan is the best distance team in the country, its sprinters can”t compete with Texas and Stanford, last year”s NCAA champion and runner-up, respectively.
Traditionally, meets between Michigan and Georgia have come down to the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay.
Urbanchek expected the same when the Wolverines faced the Bulldogs Saturday at Canham Natatorium, but this year the first race was the key.
Michigan”s 400-medley-relay team of Jordan Watland, Jeff Hopwood, Tony Kurth and Garrett Mangieri beat Georgia”s relay in a wire-to-wire race with a time of 3:28.86. Michigan took control with an 11-6 lead and never trailed on its way to winning the meet 131-111.
Michigan won four consecutive races after the relay, and by the time Georgia”s Andrew Mahaney placed first in the 200 butterfly, his team was already looking at a 30-point deficit.
“Luck was on our side,” Urbanchek said of the 20-point victory, before giving credit to his team. “It was a pretty good show. Everybody functioned up to what we would expect them to.”
The distance swimmers led the way for Michigan. Brendan Neligan and Andrew Hurd posted a 1-2 finish in the 1000 freestyle and Neligan, Tim Siciliano and Hurd swept the 500 freestyle.
Neligan and Hurd have been the best of Michigan”s nine freshmen all season and have faced the most pressure.
“We expect those guys to function under stress,” Urbanchek said. “They”re not really freshmen. They”ve had a lot of international experience, and many of the kids don”t have that. They”re seasoned, even though they”re freshmen in age.”
Neligan competed in the World University Games over the summer, and Hurd represented Canada in the 2000 Olympics.
Michigan warmed up for Georgia Friday night with its first Big Ten meet of the season, against Indiana.
Although their top swimmers competed in fewer events than usual to conserve energy for Saturday, the Wolverines took 11 of 13 events in a 160.5-82.5 win at Canham.
Mangieri won the 50 and 100 freestyle races. Neligan, Hurd and Dan Ketchum each had a first and second-place finish.
Diver Jason Coben won the one-meter and three-meter diving events with personal-best scores of 333.97 and 345.22. Diving is one of Indiana”s strengths, and Coben said Michigan diving coach Dick Kimball, who plans to retire after this year, gave the Wolverines extra motivation against the Hoosiers.
“He”s pretty much giving it all for us, so we decided to make him happy and beat Indiana one last time for him,” Coben said.
Although Urbanchek doesn”t think Michigan”s strong start is an indicator of NCAA title potential, he thinks a different title might be in the Wolverines” sights.
“I think we have a pretty good shot at the Big Ten championship,” Urbanchek said.