COLUMBUS – You had to wonder if Brutus the Buckeye was stifled by the smell of chlorine – or if he was just feeling suffocated by his team’s inability to win.

Fifteen feet from the Michigan men’s swimming and diving squad, the Ohio State mascot stood silently with a group of red- and gray-clad cheerleaders as they watched the Buckeyes lose their first-day lead over the Wolverines. During Friday and Saturday’s double-dual meet, No. 12 Michigan came from behind to defeat No. 14 Ohio State, 171-163, but lost to No. 8 Northwestern, 189.5-144.5.

After Friday’s events, the Wolverines trailed the Buckeyes by four points and the Wildcats by 14.

“The meet got away from us with Northwestern (on Friday), so we knew that even if we had a great meet (on Saturday), it’d be hard to catch them,” Michigan coach Bob Bowman said. “With Ohio State, we felt like we had a chance to get back and win, and the guys swam well to do that.”

Bowman said freshman Scott Spann’s second-place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke “basically won the meet” for Michigan against Ohio State. Spann passed the third-place swimmer in the race’s final lap.

“I was really focusing on my own race, because I knew if I had a good race, it would be better than Ohio State’s,” Spann said. “It was a lot closer than we hoped it would be going into the last two races. We needed a guaranteed win over Ohio State in the breaststroke so that we could have confidence coming into the last relay.”

Also helping defeat the Buckeyes were sophomore Matt Patton and junior Alex Vanderkaay, who set pool records in the 1,000-yard freestyle and 200-yard butterfly, respectively.

For their final regular-season meet before the Big Ten championships, some Ohio State and Northwestern swimmers wore “fast skins” – swimsuits generally used for end-of-the-season meets by athletes in peak training condition after tapering. Bowman said this weekend’s double dual contest was not intended to be a taper meet for the Wolverines, a decision that temporarily proved difficult for the Wolverines to overcome.

“They had the fast suits on, which put us at a disadvantage for now, but it won’t later,” Bowman said. “Everyone makes their own choices. It’s our commitment to be focused on Big Tens and the NCAAs, and we’re not going to sacrifice those goals for any steps down the line.”

In three weeks, Michigan will return to Columbus for the Big Ten Championships. Despite Northwestern’s 13 first-place victories this weekend, the Wolverines were unconcerned with the possibility of a similar dominating performance by the Wildcats at the conference meet.

“Northwestern is a perfect dual meet team because of the way that (dual meets) are set up,” freshman Chris Brady explained. “For first place, you automatically get more points than everyone else. At Big Tens, the second, third and fourth places mean a lot more than just winning, and I think we have a much better shot there.”

This weekend provided the opportunity for Michigan to swim at this year’s Big Ten Championship site before the meet. With the different format of the conference meet and the added advantage of swimming after taper, the Wolverines believe the Big Ten championship will be marked by Maize-and-Blue victories.

“I think everyone’s ready,” sophomore Bobby Savulich said. “We just need to tune up a little bit. In three weeks, we’re going to come out, fight like hell for Michigan and win.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.