The members of the Michigan women”s swimming and diving team have had the same goal since the first day of practice to qualify for the NCAA Championships.

Two swimmers, Lindsay Carlberg and Annie Weilbacher, did just that at the Georgia Invitational this past weekend with times good enough to earn automatic bids to the championship meet in Austin, Texas on March 21-23.

“Overall I was very pleased with our effort,” said swimming coach Jim Richardson. “The team had a good mindset and gave a great effort.

There were a “good number of swimmers” who finished with NCAA consideration times that are most likely to become automatic bids by the end of the season.

Carlberg, who has dominated the 200-yard backstroke all season, finished first in the event yesterday with an NCAA-qualifying time of 1:58.63.

In the first two days of competition, Carlberg helped the Wolverines with lifetime bests in both the 100 backstroke and the 200 individual medley.

Also finding success in individual events was Weilbacher. She, despite finishing second in the event, earned an NCAA berth with a time of 58.63 in the 100-yard butterfly. The sophomore also found success helping the 200 freestyle relay finish fourth and with an NCAA-consideration time.

“To know that (going to NCAAs) is set, it”ll be easier going into the end of the season,” Weilbacher said.

Both Weilbacher and Carlberg will be on a set training regimen to prepare them for the NCAAs, meaning they can ignore resting for the Big Ten Championship in February and use it as regular training.

Those who haven”t automatically qualified are going to have to peak twice in the winter, according to Richardson once at the Big Ten Championships to make it to Austin, and the second time in Texas to perform well at NCAAs.

This was the first time all season that the entire team was swimming at its fastest, and Michigan had much success in its third-place finish at the Georgia Invitational. In fact, it was able to avenge a previous loss to Minnesota, finishing three spots and 70 points higher than the Golden Gophers.

Georgia (813.5 points) ran away with the event, finishing first in seven of the 18 swimming events. Michigan may have gained a new rival in second-place Northwestern, which finished better than Michigan in six events and was 100 points ahead of Michigan”s 511.

Even though the Wolverines did not have many individual qualifiers, it did have success in numerous swimmers earning NCAA-consideration times.

“Kelli (Stein) was just awesome in the 100 and 200 breastrokes,” Richardson said. “She”s probably already qualified for the NCAAs. I am sure her times will be good enough, they always have (been before).”

Other Wolverines who likely have the times necessary for the NCAA Championships are sophomore Emily-Clare Fenn and freshman Amy McCullough who were No. 1 and 2, respectively, in the 1,650-yard freestyle. This was Fenn”s best finish in the event since her sixth-place finish at NCAAs last year that earned her a spot on the All-America team.

McCullough was five seconds away from first-place finishes in the 1,650-yard freestyle and the 500 free, where she finished with an NCAA consideration time of 4:52.15.

In the 200 free, she had another close call, finishing fifth two seconds back from a NCAA automatic bid.

Another multi-top-five finisher was Sara Johnson, who finished fourth in the 200-yard individual medley and fifth in both the 400 IM and the 200 backstroke.

“I like where we are as a team. After this first period of training, we”ve got another two months to enhance ourselves in time for Big Ten Championships and NCAAs,” Richardson said.

For the Wolverines (0-3), the Georgia Invitational was the last event for the 2001 fall season. Their next stop will be Hawaii for their training trip in Honolulu from Dec. 22-Jan. 6.

The Hawaii trip is their designated time to make sure they don”t fall off their work schedule. The Wolverines will be able to use their dual meets as extra practice time for January and February as they effectively used their time to prepare in November.

Michigan will resume its competition on Jan. 18 as it begins the Big Ten season. The Wolverines open at home against Penn State.

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