No lead is ever safe.

For the No. 19 Michigan women’s swimming and diving team, Saturday’s 155-142 victory against Wildcats hinged on the final swim, the 400-yard freestyle relay.

Going into the race, the score was 142-138 and Michigan held the lead. The only problem for the Wolverines: A first place-finish is worth 11 points, second place is worth just four and third earns two. No matter what the combination, first place would decide the meet. Michigan could sense this was going to happen all along.

“The meet went back and forth, back and forth,” Michigan coach Jim Richardson said. “The coaches and I had a feeling that this was going to be decided with the final meet. Whichever team had the best last relay was going to win the meet.”

The first leg of the 400-yard free was quite similar to the rest of the meet. Michigan co-captain Anne Weilbacher swam neck-to-neck with Northwestern’s freshman star Sara Petric. The pressure was on for Michigan’s next swimmer in the relay, co-captain Erin Abbey.

Once again, a decent lead could not be established. Michigan’s top two swimmers didn’t provide enough breathing room for the second half of the relay.

“You can’t count on dominating a good team,” Richardson said. “We had to take over during those last two legs.”

Enter Michigan freshman Abby Seskevics.

Seskevics built on Michigan’s slight lead and put it out of reach for the Wildcats. Amy McCullough was the anchor, and capped off the win. The team finished with a time of 3:28.09, more than three seconds faster than Northwestern’s time.

“We’re glad to come away with the victory,” Richardson said. “Northwestern, like us, doesn’t have much depth, but they provide competition in every event. They have good people and they’re well coached.”

Indeed, Northwestern came into the meet with a three-game win streak. In order to prevent the Wildcats from extending that streak, Michigan had to take advantage of its fast distance swimmers.

“We had the edge in the distance races,” Richardson said. “That’s where we picked up most of our points.”

Junior Emily Fenn earned an NCAA consideration time (16:42.94) in the 1650-yard freestyle. Junior Lori Eberwein finished second in that race with 17:00.30, her season-best.

But overall, Richardson thought there was more room for improvement and that the team needs to swim better to avoid such close meets.

“I thought we’d be faster,” Richardson said. “We still have to keep improving our times.”

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