“This is not for you, this is for the team.”
There are words you might expect from Michigan head coach Mike Bottom ahead of a Big Ten dual meet against No. 10 Ohio State, on senior day no less.
And the No. 1 Michigan men’s swimming and diving team obliged. They lined up one behind another in front of the platform, readied themselves and dove straight into the pool, swimming laps as fast as possible.
Curiously enough, all of this happened after the Wolverines (5-0 Big Ten, 7-0 overall) completed a comprehensive victory over the Buckeyes this weekend at Canham Natatorium, 251–75.
Normally after a meet, swimmers take cooldown laps to remove lactic acid built up in their bodies. This time, though, after completing cooldown laps, the team entered the pool to swim more laps, but with a purpose.
“We look forward to this meet every year,” said senior Sean Fletcher. “Dave Brandon came in and gave us a big speech before the meet on Friday so that gave us a lot of motivation to do well this meet.”
To say that Michigan was dominant over the weekend would be a severe understatement. Out of the 18 events over the two days, Michigan swept five events and took the top two spots in seven other races.
In the first event of the dual meet, the Wolverines’ 400-yard medley relay ‘A’ team quartet of seniors Miguel Ortiz and Zachary Turk, junior John Wojciechowski and sophomore Richard Funk gave Michigan its first points of the night when it posted a time of 3:11.04. The 400-yard medley relay ‘B’ team followed suit, placing second in 3:15.16.
And as he has done all season, junior Connor Jaeger followed up that event with a victory in the 1000-yard freestyle posting a time of 8:59.17 – a Canham pool record. Jaeger was trailed by senior Ryan Feeley and junior Sean Ryan for second and third place, respectively.
“I wasn’t in the whole meet mindset until I watched (Ohio State) come on deck and then I remembered, ‘Time to defend our house,’ ” Jaeger said. “It’s easy to get excited. It’s Ohio State, Big Ten rival, to win (almost) every race, its pretty awesome.”
Michigan went on to sweep the top three spots in the 200- and 50-yard freestyle, further stretching their lead over the Buckeyes.
Similar to their fast start, the Wolverines ended the day with another victory in a relay event – the 400-yard freestyle. The ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams placed first and second. With all the events completed on day one, Michigan held a commanding 140-24 lead over Ohio State.
Day two began with Michigan honoring all nine members of its senior class. After each swimmer’s accolades were announced, he was presented with a yellow rose and posed alongside coach Bottom for a picture.
“This was my first recruiting class,” Bottom said. “And they’ve done a great job of forming the culture here and moving our whole team forward.”
Once they stepped up to the platform though, the emotions of senior day took a back seat and it was back to business for the Wolverines.
The 200-meter medley relay ‘A’ team of Ortiz, sophomore Bruno Ortiz, Fletcher and Turke placed first with a time of 1:25.89, garnering Michigan 11 points. Their efforts were followed up by the ‘B’ team, which placed second for an additional three points.
The Wolverines’ lone event loss came in the 200-yard backstroke. Ohio State’s Steven Zimmerman edged out senior Connor McCarrol, 1:46.47 to 1:48.03. Michigan didn’t dwell on the loss for long though, as Turke, Miguel Ortiz and senior Roman Willets swept the 100-yard freestyle.
By the time the last event rolled around, the Wolverines had already secured a strong lead, and the win. Recognizing the magnanimity of the meet, coach Bottom pulled his regulars and substituted in his senior class.
“We had a senior day today, and it was pretty exciting to watch our seniors step up,” Bottom said. “That last relay team (200-yard freestyle) was made up of completely seniors. … We’re going to miss our seniors.”
Michigan placed first and third in the event, earning 13 points and finishing the meet victorious.
Despite the loss, though, some Buckeye pride remained. After the ceremonious handshakes between the two teams were completed, the Ohio State team gathered around to yell “Good job Michigan, see you at Big Tens” followed by its fight song. Michigan countered with a medley of its own.
“Did you hear one of our parents playing the bugle there, playing ‘The Victors’ ? That was awesome,” Bottom said with a wry smile on his face. “Then we sang our own little version.”
But perhaps the stronger message was sent when the Buckeyes had left Canham Natatorium. The Wolverines jumped right back into the pool and swam lap after lap, suggesting they’d be more than ready for the Big Ten championship.