The No. 4 Michigan men’s swimming and diving team topped conference rivals No. 8 Ohio State and No. 24 Penn State in a three-squad showdown this weekend.
“Any time we see Ohio State, we want to beat them,” said Michigan coach Mike Bottom. “It’s a very good rivalry that brings out the best … at this point in the season, for both teams.”
In addition to bragging rights and pride, the Wolverines (3-0 Big Ten, 8-0 overall) also put their unblemished Big Ten record on the line. From the get-go, Michigan looked poised to walk away with a win. With first-place finishes in seven of eight events on the first day, Michigan was swimming with a purpose.
“The race was not just for first or second or even third, fourth, or fifth or sixth,” Bottom said. “Anytime they got their hand on the wall, I asked them to do it for the seniors, and for Michigan.”
The Wolverines’ 400-yard medley relay team got the tide rolling with a first-place finish, registering a time of 3:13.20. Sophomore Connor Jaeger followed it up with a first-place finish in the 1,000-yard freestyle,setting a pool record of 9:03.44. Junior Miguel Ortiz also contributed with first-place finishes in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke.
With those efforts, Michigan built a commanding 108-point lead over the Nittany Lions. The Buckeyes, however, kept within striking distance thanks in part to multiple second- and third-place finishes.
“(Ohio State has) 50-plus guys, and they are good in every event,” Bottom said. “So we had go there and be good in order to beat them.”
On the second day of the competition, there was added excitement, as senior Dan Madwed swam the 200-yard backstroke — an event he has swam only once in his four years — rather than his normal event.
“He asked to swim it against Ohio State because he wanted to see if he can beat (Andrew Elliot),” Bottom said. “He came up on him and almost beat him.”
There would be no heartbreak for the Wolverines, as they came out even more dominant the second day, sweeping spots one and two in various events.
Michigan placed one and two in the 200-yard medley team event, and Jaeger followed with a first place finish in the 500-yard freestyle — an event in which he is ranked second in the nation.
The trend continued in the 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly, with sophomores Kyle Whitetaker and John Wojciechowski placing first, followed up by Madwed and junior Sean Fletcher. Ortiz rounded out his successful weekend by adding another first-place finish in the 100-yard freestyle, bringing his weekend tally to three.
“Miguel had to face the two best swimmers on their team,” Bottom said. “Every time he stood up he had to beat one of the best guys, and he did, so that was pretty special.”
The Wolverines will not revel in their victory for very long, as another Big Ten rival lies ahead of them in Michigan State. It will be the last home meet of the season, and Michigan will look to close out at Canham Natatorium and send off its seniors to the echoing sounds of a victory.