Three days after returning home from an intense winter training trip to Hawaii, the Michigan’s men’s swimming team is headed to the West Coast to take on two of the top teams in the nation.
“I just hope that after all this travel their biological clocks know what the hell is going on,” coach Jon Urbanchek said.
The Wolverines will need to be back on track if they want to defeat No. 3 Stanford and No. 4 California this weekend and maintain their position as the No. 1 team in the country. After suffering a close 134-109 loss to Stanford last year at Canham Natatorium, the Wolverines are anxious to beat the Cardinal in its own pool Friday. But Stanford is equally ready for a victory.
“Stanford hasn’t had any competition yet this year,” Urbanchek said. “That’s why they’re not in the No. 1 spot. They want that spot back, and they’re ready for an ambush.”
Fending off the Cardinals will be no easy task as both teams are “very close on paper,” according to Urbanchek. Friday’s dual meet will be decided by what should be several close races. Two of these include the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard freestyle, in which Michigan’s Garrett Mangieri and Stanford’s Randall Bal are separated by just hundredths of a second. The 100-yard breaststroke and the 200-yard medley relay are other events that are likely to be critical to the outcome of the meet.
“Stanford definitely has the personnel to knock Michigan out of the top spot,” Urbanchek said. “Berkley does too. It’s easy getting to the top, but it’s hard to stay there”
Although the majority of the Wolverines are in their best condition so far this season, freshman Chris DeJong -who was crucial in the win over then-No. 1 Texas in November, injured his knee on the training trip while playing beach volleyball. DeJong will still compete in Palo Alto.
Apart from DeJong’s unfortunate injury, Urbanchek views the training trip as a success.
“The team stayed in a dorm and ate meals together,” he said. “I think the swimmers definitely bonded, which I think is just as important an accomplishment as the training.”
If Michigan’s newfound unity is not enough to carry it to victory, then perhaps a strong fan base in the Bay Area will help.
“Despite the fact that Michigan is so far away, we usually have just as many supporters as Stanford,” Urbanchek said.
After about six weeks without any significant competition, the Wolverines hope that their many hours logged training will pay off.
“I expect them to step up,” Urbanchek said.