Three more points.

Three points were all that separated the No. 1 Michigan men’s swimming and diving team from what would have been its fifth consecutive SMU Classic title. Three points that instead went to No. 5 Southern California after it beat the Wolverines in the final heat of the 200-yard freestyle relay. By half a second.

Three points and half a second.

The final race was typical of the competition all weekend at the SMU Classic in Dallas, where the Wolverines raced some of the top-ranked teams in the NCAA, including No. 7 Florida and No. 16 Louisville. The meet brings together some of the strongest swimmers in the country in a uniquely small setting. Six schools compete, but each only travels with eight swimmers and one diver.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Michigan assistant coach Josh White. “It’s definitely a different set up, but it’s pretty neat because every single swim really has meaning in the score.”

The Wolverines led the pack at the end of the first day with 166 points after senior Miguel Ortiz took first place in the 100-yard backstroke and led off the winning 400-yard medley team. But this meet was the definition of a team effort, and every swimmer made a big difference on the scoreboard.

Along with their two first-place finishes, Michigan’s eight swimmers showed their versatility on Friday, taking second place in four championship heats and first and second place in five consolation heats.

“We were considerably faster than we’ve swum at that meet in previous years, which was really a great positive, very encouraging,” White said.

The team kept up the momentum in day two, winning the 200-yard medley relay and earning second place in every other event.

Over the course of the meet, Michigan showed off its exceptional speed in many events, performing better than anticipated in a number of heats.

Senior Sean Fletcher recorded the fastest time of any swimmer in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 47.24.

“On the relays, when we weren’t even expected to get like top three, we stepped it up and won a few and got second, and some we weren’t even considered,” Fletcher said.

The Wolverines also succeeded in surprising themselves. Last year at the SMU Classic, Michigan came out on top, scoring a total of 318 points. This year, despite finishing second, the team scored 327 points overall, highlighting the major improvements made in speed and performance during this season.

Though the Wolverines were unable to pick up three more points and failed to bring home another title, they collectively consider the SMU Classic a major success.

“We still have things we can do better, as you always do,” said coach White. “But in terms of the overall level of performance, it was one of the best meets we had that hasn’t been a conference championship or NCAA.”

Added Fletcher: “I think it was definitely considered a victory with times and I think it’s really helped us with motivation and seeing what we have to do well at the end of the year.”

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