Similar to the University’s ideal, the Michigan women’s swimming and diving team strives to attract well-rounded students. In addition to fast times, there are other abilities the typical high school All-American needs to have to compete for the Maize and Blue.

Paul Wong
Michigan junior Erica Walls spans her arms mid-stroke as she competed in the 100-meter butterfly against Toledo on January 10.

The 2003 recruits – Kaitlyn Brady, Susan Gilliam, Lindsey Smith and Anne Stein – compose Michigan’s fastest group of incoming freshmen in recent years. But more importantly, coach Jim Richardson says they are not just swimmers – they are true “student-athletes.”

“I recruit people who are highly achievement-oriented, very driven, and they have goals for themselves both in the pool and out of the pool,” Richardson said. “Then we look at character and that they’re not one-dimensional. They must be leaders and have a high level of responsibility. We have a very strong philosophy here.”

Even if athletes are not the best swimmers that Michigan can recruit, Richardson still considers their other qualities with equal importance.

“Certainly, they have to be fast enough to swim in the Big Ten, but we’ll look at kids that aren’t extremely fast or haven’t swam for a great program, and give them a chance to walk on,” Richardson said. “As long as they think academics are important. If they don’t, she and I are going to have a disagreement.”

Many on the team understand that they have little chance of making a career out of the sport, so succeeding in academics is an important goal for them – it is included in their team mission statement every year.

In fact, Richardson even allows some members of the team to miss practices in order to keep up with their classes, which is almost unheard of with other varsity programs.

“We have a swimmer that doesn’t practice on Tuesdays,” Richardson said. “She goes to class 9-5, so Tuesdays are awful for her. I’m not going to ask her to work out in addition to that workload. It’s better for her academically.”

Brady, Gilliam, Smith and Stein are no exception to Michigan’s standards.

Brady is a three time All-American who holds four Delaware state records in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle, the 100-yard backstroke and the 100-yard butterfly.

Gilliam, who competes for the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Fla., is one of the first Michigan swimmers to come from a southern high school. She has the second-fastest high school time in the 500-yard freestyle, and has led her school to 12 consecutive state championships. She is also a three time All-American.

Smith is a versatile swimmer, and Richardson said that she is willing to do whatever the team needs her to do. She holds the Michigan state high school record in the 100-yard freestyle.

Stein was on the U.S. National Junior team, and is currently ranked 23rd in the world in the 1,500-yard freestyle with a time of 16:37.51. She is also an All-American.

Of course, the records and statistics are important, but Richardson values the responsibility, intelligence and character of the new recruits just as much.

The team’s average GPA is a 3.1, which Richardson says is higher than the University’s average.

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