So far this season, the No. 12 Michigan men”s swimming and diving team has traveled far and wide in search of the nation”s best competition. The Wolverines competed against last year”s national champion, No. 2 Texas, at the Texas Invitational in Austin and then traveled to Arizona to face No. 8 Arizona and No. 5 Arizona State. This weekend Michigan will face possibly the best team in the nation this year Stanford.
The grueling schedule is part of the team”s continuous search for the best means of improvement.
“The only way you”re going to be the top team in the country is if you compete against the top teams in the country,” Michigan coach John Urbanchek said. “We”re expecting outstanding competition.”
Stanford will definitely push the Wolverines to perform this weekend. The team has won eight national titles including four in the last decade and this season is looking for its 21st consecutive Pac-10 title. The Cardinal”s only loss last year was at the NCAA Championships, where it finished runner-up to Texas. This year, Stanford returns 22 members from last year”s team and has a 3-0 record in dual meets.
“Stanford has a very well-balanced team, a very strong team obviously,” Urbanchek said. “They”re not only good on paper, but they can compete in the water too.”
The fact that both Michigan and Stanford boast internationally experienced swimmers should make for some exciting races this weekend. Michigan sophomore Dan Ketchum won two silver medals at the World University Games in Beijing last August and senior Tim Siciliano captured a bronze medal. Stanford junior Randall Bal was also successful at the WUG, finishing with three gold medals. Bal will probably be unchallenged this weekend, according to Urbanchek. But Michigan still expects to take advantage of Stanford”s weaknesses even if there may be very few.
“If Stanford has a couple weaknesses, it would be distance freestyle, and that”s Michigan”s strength,” Urbanchek said. “We should do well in the 200-yard freestyle, 500-yard freestyle, and 1,650-yard freestyle.”
Another exciting race will be the match-up between Siciliano and Stanford”s Markus Rogan in the 400-yard individual medley. Siciliano is the reigning, three-time national champion in this event and Rogan competed at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. He is currently ranked second in the world in the 200-meter backstroke.
The 400-yard IM will take place today, during the exhibition portion of the meet. Although today”s events are not officially part of the dual meet, the best lineup from both teams will be competing.
“Both teams are going to use their best lineup for both days,” Urbanchek said. “It”s not like the “B squad” will compete.”
Over the course of the weekend, the swimmers will compete in every event that will be in the conference and NCAA championship meets later this year. Despite the rivalry and strong competition that will take place during this dual meet, both teams are still focused on the national championships.
“We”re trying to simulate the championship environment by having a back-to-back meet, where you swim at night, and then swim in the morning,” Urbanchek said.
This type of training and competition obviously pays off, as Stanford and Michigan have been two of the most successful teams in recent years. The two schools have captured half the national championships in the 1990s and have dominated their respective conferences.