Friday was Senior Night at Canham Natatorium and the No. 16 Michigan women’s swimming and diving team honored the graduating class in the only way it knew how – by blowing Toledo out of the water, 161-80.
This meet marked the Wolverines’ fourth consecutive win in 2013, and head coach Mike Bottom is incredibly proud of the way his team has stepped up and performed in the last few weeks.
“The training was slow moving at first, but now it’s really moving quickly because they see that a little change makes a lot of difference,” Bottom said. “That’s our mantra: you’re not going to get better without change.”
Michigan has shown a lot of growth this season particularly in technique and style, which has been Bottom’s main focus for his team. Much of their progress can be attributed to a positive example set by the senior class.
Senior Deidre Jones has been a strong finisher at every meet this season. She was named Big Ten Swimmer of the Week a month ago, took two first-place wins in the 100- and 200-yard freestyles and assisted in two relay victories in the Wolverines’ last away meet against in-state rival Michigan State. On Friday, she won two freestyle events, with a career-best time of 23.36 in the 50-yard freestyle.
“I think that me individually, and the sprint group as a whole, we’ve really hit our stride since December,” Jones said. “We’re getting excited about the little basic details we’ve been working on since September finally coming to fruition.”
Seniors Adrienne Bicek and Ashley Cohagen both finished with victories on Friday night. Bicek touched first in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:51.32, and Cohagen won the 100-yard butterfly in 56.12 seconds. The Wolverines were victorious in 12 of 13 events, and in seven of those wins, Michigan swimmers earned both first- and second-place spots.
The seniors have played a vital role this season, in particular because the swimming program has gone through major structural changes.
Bottom took over his position for the women’s team in the fall, and now has the responsibility of head coach for both the men and women’s swimming and diving teams. The transition has not been an easy one, but Bottom has relied on both his coaching staff and the seniors to lead by example and keep their team on the right track.
“They’ve been great leaders,” Bottom said. “They’ve been champions for change. They’ve had to convince some people on our behalf because they have credibility with their years here at Michigan.”
In terms of moving forward, Michigan is really focusing on improving technique while increasing speeds across the board. With the Big Ten Championships less than two weeks away, the team is hoping for solid performances and strong marks.
“The exciting part about working for the team is that they’re hungry – they’re hungry for change, they’re hungry for getting better and learning new things,” Bottom said. “An enthusiastic athlete like that is going to go nowhere but get better.”