It took until the final day of competition, but the No. 7 Michigan men’s swimming team finally overtook California and won its second consecutive title at the AT&T USA Swimming Short Course National Championships in Federal Way, Wash., on Saturday.
The Wolverines had no individual winners, but a balanced team effort and plenty of strong performances propelled them to victory in the three-day meet. They finished with 281 points — 46 points ahead of the Golden Bears.
“I’m very proud of the way the team performed,” Michigan coach Mike Bottom said. “We’re in the middle of the season and we’re tired, but we are able to fight through the aches and pains and prove that last year wasn’t just a fluke.”
Junior Tyler Clary was named the male “Swimmer of the Meet” after several solid performances, including third-place finishes in the 400-yard individual medley, the 200-yard backstroke and butterfly events. His success came despite being only a few weeks removed from being diagnosed with H1N1.
“Tyler really stood out and got better as the meet went on,” Bottom said. “We know the H1N1 is still affecting him, but he didn’t let it stop him.”
Senior co-captain Andre Schultz also had a great meet, taking runner-up honors in the 200- and 400-yard individual medleys and finishing sixth in the 200-yard backstroke.
“He was stellar,” Bottom said. “He was in the final of everything he swam except for the 200-yard breaststroke today, which he swam even though it’s not one of his best strokes, because he understood the value of team points and team leadership.”
This is the first season after the NCAA banned the controversial “tech-suits” that had led to countless records being broken in the last few years. The result has been slower times all over the nation, and Bottom believes this has been a big transition for his team.
“Swimming without the tech-suits is much tougher physically and requires better conditioning,” Bottom said. “It’s like riding a bike with flat tires as opposed to full ones. On top of that, it’s tough mentally because you have to cope with the fact that regardless of how well you’re doing, your times are going to be worse than they were last year. You can’t let that demoralize you.”
On Sunday, the Wolverines also performed well in the Long Course Invitational, winning three events. Clary won the 100-meter backstroke, senior co-captain Chris Brady won the 100-meter butterfly, and senior Charlie Houchin won the 400-meter freestyle.
Michigan won’t compete again until the Orange Bowl Classic in Key Largo, FL on Jan. 2.
“This break will give us some time to rest our tired bodies, train hard, and prepare for the Big Ten tournaments coming up,” Bottom said.