The Michigan men’s swimming and diving team continued its season-opening duals winning streak on Saturday when it beat Wisconsin, 172.5-115.5, at Canham Natatorium. The Wolverines have now won 44 of their last 45 openers.
Michigan got on top early, placing first and second in the opening 200-meter heat. From that point on, the Wolverines kept the lead throughout the length of the event.
The freestyle events proved to be the strength of the team, with each final finishing with a Wolverine swimmer in first and second place — and often in third and fourth to sweep the heat. The men’s 100-meter freestyle and 200-meter individual medley ended with Michigan swimmers claiming every top-four position.
The 1,000-meter freestyle belonged to junior Connor Jaeger.
From the stands, Jaeger might look like every other swimmer. With a closer look, the black Olympic ring tattoo is just barely visible across his left shoulder blade. Jaeger returned from London in August after placing sixth in the 1,500-meter freestyle final.
Now he’s back in the water, and back with the Maize and Blue.
“Coming back and swimming in dual meets, you never know what’s going to happen,” Jaeger said. “In-season swimming is so unpredictable, you can never be too comfortable going into any race or any meet.”
With only eight seniors on the team, freshmen will look to juniors such as Jaeger and captain Jack Lee — who placed first in both the one- and three-meter dives — for guidance and leadership. The freshman class is now the biggest class on the team, with 14 new swimmers and one new diver.
“The freshman stepped up today,” Jaeger said. “Two of them particularly swam really well: Dylan Bosch and Peter Brumm. I don’t want to just call those out. I think as a class they did a great job.”
Michigan swimming coach Mike Bottom agreed that Bosch is a headlining addition to the program. Bosch came in first for the 100-meter fly at 48.92 seconds and the 200-meter fly at 1:46.77.
On the diving board, freshman Timothy Faerber combated an injured back.
“He didn’t have the greatest meet but there’s a lot of room for improvement,” Lee said. “He definitely has a lot of talent so hopefully we’ll be able to build him up for Big Tens.”
The first meet marked the end of an off season full of change for the Wolverines.
Jim Richardson, the longtime women’s head coach, retired and Bottom took his place while retaining his men’s coaching position. Bottom said that he still spends the same amount of time with the men’s team and simply has a busier schedule.
Though there have been big changes within the program overall, Jaeger insists that the student-to-coach relationship has stayed the same.
“Nothing has changed between the three coaches that we had last year: Mike Bottom, Josh White and Mark Hill,” Jaeger said. “And we’ve received two more coaches that are able to come on deck whenever they want and give us technique tips, so we’ve really gained out of this and haven’t lost anything.”
The women’s and men’s teams, which competed at the same time on Saturday, were out in full support of one another. The excitement and team morale were very clear from the deafening screams, whistles, cheers and chants that echoed off the tiled walls of Canham Natatorium.
“The energy of the team at a dual meet or at Big Tens or NCAAs is incomparable to any meet, even the Olympics,” Jaeger said. “Everyone gets so excited for these meets, especially Big Tens, there’s nothing like that.”
Bottom has already started looking ahead to upcoming Big Ten meets and, with so many young swimmers, future years.
“This team knows they’re building for the future; we’re going to be good,” Bottom said.
Michigan is back in action at Canham Natatorium on Friday, Oct. 5 to take on the Minnesota.