Emily Brunemann confirmed she was ready for the rigors of collegiate academics when she finished her first round of midterms last week. Friday night, the freshman proved she’s ready to compete at the highest level of collegiate swimming as well.

Brunemann’s first-place finish in the 1,650-yard freestyle event helped lead the Michigan women’s swimming and diving team to its first victory of the season, as the Wolverines (1-0 Big Ten, 1-1 overall) defeated Michigan State (0-1, 1-1), 158-128.

The Crescent Springs, Ky., native’s winning time of 16:48.41 was more than a minute ahead of the second-place finisher and surpassed the NCAA “B” standard time, guaranteeing her consideration for a spot in the NCAA championships.

Brunemann’s teammates cheered enthusiastically from the pool deck, and coach Jim Richardson flashed her the OK sign as she completed the final lap.

“I’m very happy with my performance,” Brunemann said. “To make NCAA “B” cut in my second meet is just incredible.”

Brunemann’s strong swim was just one of many performances that pleased coach Richardson on Friday night.

“I like where we are as a team, both in and out of the pool,” Richardson said.

The coach was satisfied for good reason. Michigan swimmers came in first place in every event of the meet.

Michigan’s effort was solid from the outset Friday. In the first race, the Wolverines finished 1-2 in the 400-yard medley relay.

Following Brunemann’s 1,650-yard win, Michigan further extended its lead by sweeping the top three spots in the 200-yard freestyle.

Sisters Lindsey and Hannah Smith made the 100-yard backstroke a family affair when freshman Hannah, with a winning time of 57.56, edged out her junior sister.

The younger Smith beamed proudly at Lindsey as they exited the pool following the race.

The Wolverine’s quick start erased Richardson’s initial fears of a letdown after a 167-128 loss to California Thursday night.

“I was a little concerned by the Cal result,” Richardson said. “I told the team that it needed to bring its A game to every meet. That’s what happened (Friday night). Every swimmer left everything she had in the pool.”

Michigan also performed well in the diving events. Sophomore Elyse Lee took first place in the one-meter springboard with a score of 282.15. Lee added a third-place finish in the three-meter event.

The Wolverines dominated the meet so completely that, with the score 152-52, Richardson chose to exhibition his swimmers in the last four events.

Michigan’s determined performance on Friday confirmed Richardson’s sense that this team has the potential to achieve impressive results.

“We’ve had good teams the past two years,” Richardson said. “Both years we finished in the top 15 at NCAAs. This year is different though. This team has the ability to be in the top 10 at the end of season.”

Much of Richardson’s confidence comes from the hard work the Wolverines have put in during dry-land training in the weight room.

A key component of the training program is the leg weightlifting that the team does three times a week. Many swimmers have put in long hours to get stronger coming into the season.

The extra effort seems to be paying off already. Sixty-five percent of the returning Wolverines have already posted better times than they did at any time last season.

Richardson hopes to see that percentage grow when No. 15 Michigan continues its season Saturday against No. 3 Georgia at Canham Natatorium.

 

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