As home openers go, this wasn’t a headlining event. But for the 12 new freshmen on the Michigan men’s swimming and diving team, it marked the start of their participation in the foundation of a new swimming empire.
The Wolverines opened their season Friday night, hosting backyard neighbor Eastern Michigan. The Wolverines improved to 26-0 all-time against the Eagles with a score of 155-58.
“I think, overall, we swam pretty well,” Michigan coach Bob Bowman said. “Half our team are freshmen, and they don’t really know what’s going on. So considering that, I thought they did a very nice job.”
The Wolverines dominated the pool, winning out in all 15 events, including earning all three top spots in the 200- 500- and 1,000-yard freestyle races.
While no coach could be displeased with such a solid showing, Bowman knows that his team can and will be better.
“We just mixed the line-up up,” Bowman said. “It’s hardly our best (one), which makes me feel good.”
Bowman pointed out hard races from the seniors – specifically captains Davis Tarwater and Peter Vanderkaay – and returning swimmers. He thought they were much further along than they were this time last year.
“Our summer training was awesome,” Bowman said. “It worked out really well, and everybody put in a solid summer, and we’re seeing the results of that now.”
But Bowman was most impressed with the way the freshmen stepped into their new racing environment at Canham Natatorium and lived up to expectations.
The class of 2009 is regarded as the one of the best in the nation. The 12 swimmers are part of the largest class to be welcomed to the team since the 1999-2000 season.
Leading the freshman class on Friday night were diver Kyle Schroeder and mid-distance swimmer Matt Patton.
Schroeder made an impressive collegiate debut by qualifying for the NCAA “B” Regionals with a score of 320.90 in the one-meter event. Because the Eagles didn’t bring any divers to the meet, the Wolverines collected 16 points for the team’s score.
“I thought our divers did a really nice job,” Bowman said. “Schroeder making the NCAA cut was a really big plus for us.”
The Wolverines haven’t had a diver compete in the NCAA Championships since Jason Coben in 2004.
Another freshman who displayed an auspicious beginning to his career at Michigan was Patton.
The North Carolina native secured wins in the 1,000-yard freestyle (9:16.54) and 200-yard butterfly (1:52.06), giving him a 2-0 record in individual events this season.
“I was kind of nervous at first,” Patton said. “But, once I dove in, I just swam my own race. It was exciting- I could have gone a little faster in both my events if I swam a smarter race, but it was good overall.”
Michigan will continue training over the next two weeks in preparation for their much-anticipated home meet against perennial top-25 power Georgia. The showdown between the Wolverines and Bulldogs is scheduled for Saturday Nov. 5 at 1 p.m.