The Michigan men”s swimming team heads to East Lansing this weekend to take on Michigan State. But it”s not a red-letter date for the Wolverines, and it won”t be an intense, hate-filled battle.
Because swimming is a passive sport, and competitors race against the clock more than their opponents, the sport doesn”t create a lot of rivalry. In fact, Michigan doesn”t have any rivals in the Big Ten, not even the traditional intra-state nemesis Michigan State.
Coach Jon Urbanchek also credits recruiting for the dilution of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry. All but eight Michigan swimmers are from outside of the state, so very few competed in high school against swimmers now in East Lansing.
Add to that Michigan”s continual dominance of Michigan State, and the usually intriguing matchup becomes just another meet.
But that doesn”t mean it”s entirely insignificant.
For the Wolverines (3-0 Big Ten, 4-4 overall), a winning season is on the line. Although it”s just one meet, the difference between finishing 5-4 and 4-5 is a big one.
“We haven”t had a losing dual-meet record since I”ve been here and this cannot be the one not this team,” Urbanchek said.
In addition to surpassing the .500 mark, a win on Saturday would end the Wolverines” Big Ten season without a loss for the second consecutive year.
But Michigan knows there are no guarantees, and it expects a challenge from Michigan State.
“Michigan State is a very good team. They have a new coach and new pride,” Urbanchek said. “They”ve shown signs of tremendous improvement, not necessarily in results but in attitude. They”re definitely a different team.”
The teams are well matched in the sprints and freestyle events, but the Wolverines are stronger in the backstroke, butterfly and individual medley.
Saturday is Michigan”s final conference meet of the season, and the last chance to prepare for the Big Ten Championships, to be held February 22-24 in Minneapolis.
But their first priority will be finishing the dual meet season with a winning record.