Posted Feb. 24, 2008
COLUMBUS – Nine hundred yards into the 1,650-yard freestyle, the Big Ten Championship announcer informed fans they might witness one of the fastest times in the country.

He could not have been more prophetic.

The moment Michigan swimmer Emily Brunemann jumped off the starting blocks, it was easy to see she was flying. The junior soared out to an early lead and never looked back. She finished 25 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor, and her win in the freestyle gave fuel to No. 11 Michigan’s second-place Big Ten finish at McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion this weekend.

With the second-fastest NCAA Division I time this season by just fractions of a second, Brunemann broke her own Big Ten and Michigan record by over nine seconds.

“She trains to swim fast like that,” Michigan coach Jim Richardson said. “It’s great when you have somebody who works that hard, and then watch them come in to a high-pressure environment and they get the job done.”

The entire crowd got behind Brunemann’s final lengths. Spectators from all eleven schools rose to their feet to watch her record-smashing performance.

Brunemann defeated the two-time defending Big Ten champion – Minnesota’s Yuen Kobayshi. Both swam against each other many times throughout their collegiate careers. After Kobayshi touched the wall, Brunemann reached over the lane divider to congratulate her perennial opponent.

“She’s a great competitor,” Brunemann said of Kobayshi. “I always love racing with her.”

Brunemann’s impressive performance was one of many for the Wolverines.

Meet champion No. 9 Minnesota edged the Wolverines by just over 50 points, but Michigan swam well in every event and achieved 51 personal-best times or scores as a team.

The meet itself was one of the fastest championships in Big Ten history. There were multiple pool and conference records broken in nearly every event, and a new conference record was set in all but one of the 17 swimming events.

The Wolverines used that speed to set five new school records and four conference records.

“We were marvelous,” Richardson said. “We’ve never had a better Big Ten performance based on where we were coming into the meet and how we prepared.”

Fifth-year senior transfer Melissa Jaeger was well-prepared and found success in her first and last Big Ten championship. In Saturday morning’s 200-yard breaststroke preliminaries, Jaeger broke her own Big Ten record. Then in the evening session she claimed the conference title and broke her record again.

“I just stayed calm and relaxed,” Jaeger said. “All that I was thinking was, ‘Win for Michigan’ and just do my part.”

Heading into the last event of the championships – the 400-yard freestyle relay – Minnesota had already sealed the team title, but the Wolverines were not willing to take it easy.

Fresh-off a close second-place finish in the 200-yard breaststroke, senior Justine Mueller headed into the relay fired up for a win.

“I was really happy with my 200-breatstorke swim, but I wanted to win it so bad,” Mueller said. “I got off that race, and the first thing I thought was ‘I need to be on the 400 relay and use this aggression somewhere’.”

Mueller anchored the relay and exploded ahead. She careened forcefully through every stroke and touched the wall first to give the relay team of sophomore Margaret Kelly, junior Hannah Smith, Jaeger and Mueller a first-place finish and a new Big Ten record.

Notes: Michigan collected a slew of Big Ten Awards. Brunemann picked up swimmer of the year honors. Diving coach Chris Berg

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