Swimming four consecutive laps across a 25-yard pool without stopping might be considered a challenge

Swimming 100 yards while coming up sparingly for air and doing it in just 53 seconds might be considered an achievement.

But conquering all of those obstacles, while fighting off the effects of a fatiguing virus, would be nearly impossible.

If you don’t think it can be done, talk to senior Michigan freestyle swimmer Amy McCullough. She got back in the water this past weekend and swam the anchor leg in the 400-yard freestyle relay while still recovering from the lingering effects of mononucleosis..

About four weeks ago, McCullough started getting a fairly-consistent fatigued feeling that kept her on the bench for the first meet of the season. After feeling sick for quite some time, she was diagnosed by the doctors with having mono. Michigan swimming coach Jim Richardson took no chances with one of his star athletes and promptly refused to let McCullough in the water for the following week.

Begrudgingly, Richardson allowed McCullough back into the pool for light workouts in late October and got her on a very slow and gradual plan of getting back to full strength.

“We’re trying to be very conservative with her return to the pool — also with her dry-land training,” Richardson said. “We’re gradually increasing the volume of what she’s doing so, she gets some nice adaptation and hopefully by January, she’ll be back to 100 percent.”

This seems pretty far off for an athlete who has already got back into competition after being so ill. But McCullough thinks that Richardson has her right on pace. She still appears to be feeling the residual effects of the virus, as she is still unable to participate in full workouts with the team. Even the carefully laid out plan which has been set up for her leaves her exhausted after practice each day.

“Sometimes I’ll swim half of a workout and I’ll be completely beat,” McCullough said. “I’m hoping to be up to full training by the end of semester. If I work hard during Christmas break, I should be back at full strength and swimming my fastest by January.”

Nobody is more anxious for Amy to get back into competition than Richardson, especially seeing her demeanor on the sidelines. It is apparent to him that not being able to race has not at all fit with plans for her last year with the Wolverines. Both McCullough and her teammates feel the impact of her absence.

“Each day, we’re watching to see if that day’s better than the day before, Richardson said. “We’re watching for signs of energetic progress. I know she’s not going to be content until she sees some signs that things are moving in that direction significantly.”

The hardest part of being absent from competition for McCullough is the time she loses with her teammates. Because of her current circumstances, she is not always on the same practice schedule as the rest of the Wolverines and has had to miss the last few road trips where the team really connects. Luckily for Michigan, McCullough will be back on the road this weekend as the Wolverines head down to Bloomington for the Indiana Invitational.


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