Neither one has ever taken home an individual Big Ten Championship plaque. In fact, neither has even earned a top-five finish in a conference final.
A week ago, two senior swimmers on the Michigan team hung their hats successfully.
“The graduating seniors swam just the way we like to see them end their career,” Michigan men”s swimming coach Jon Urbanchek said.
G.J. Zann and Mike O”Connor made huge splashes in their final performances, finishing their respective races with personal-best times. After the Big Ten Championship on Feb. 22-24, the two officially ended their careers.
“Both G.J. and Mike finished their careers with the highest note you can find in swimming,” Urbanchek said. “They both earned their personal bests at the Big Ten Championship our biggest meet of the season. It was huge for them.”
Zann, who did not compete last season, shed five seconds off his personal best in the 200-yard breaststroke to finish third in the consolation heat, 11th overall, with a time of 2:00.62. The next day, he repeated his racing success with another personal best time of 55.74 in the 100 breaststroke, touching second in the consolation heat, finishing 10th overall.
“The races were exciting,” Zann said after the tournament. “I had never finished that high, and it was great having all the guys yell for me on the sides.”
O”Connor finished the 1650-yard freestyle with a time of 15:29.85, taking 11th place overall and earning six points towards the Wolverine”s runner-up finish.
This was over 12 seconds faster than his ninth-place finish in 2000.
“I”m happy with it,” O”Connor said after the race. “It was nice to finally get some points.”
But the senior had been earning points outside of the water since he first came to Michigan.
For the past three years, O”Connor has earned both Academic All-Big Ten honors and Michigan Athletic Academic Achievement. In addition, he is one of only two swimmers that has ever been accepted to Michigan”s business school.
“He is an exceptional student, and it just shows that swimmers can have excellent academics as well as be wonderful athletes,” Urbanchek said.
Neither Zann nor O”Connor qualified for the NCAA Championships, but each will pass a virtue on to the team”s underclassmen that characterizes Michigan”s standard of constant improvement.
Both swimmers slimmed their racing times throughout their four years, ending on a high note a moral victory.
“Because they had such significant improvement in their times, they swam exactly the way we like to see all seniors go out,” Urbanchek said. “They left their mark during their time at Michigan, and we are proud of them.”