Fully clothed, Michigan’s men’s swimming and diving head coach Jon Urbanchek dove into Cahnam Natatorium’s pool preceded by the entire Michigan men’s swimming and diving team. Overheating, the Big Ten Coach of the Year had all the reason to celebrate. His Wolverines had just won the Big Ten Championship.
“How am I going to describe this man in a couple of sentences?” senior co-captain Jeff Hopwood said of Urbanchek. “He’s unbelievable. He’s such an amazing man because he cares probably more about us out of the pool than in the pool. You know, that’s really hard to come by in a coach. He is like a father to all of us.”
As they announced the winner of the Big Ten Championship, the Wolverines awaited in ecstasy for the results of a dramatically close tournament. Pressured by the resilient Golden Gophers (689), the Wolverines used their final few events to capture their first Big Ten title (727) since 2000.
“Every little thing counted,” Urbanchek said. “For us to win this meet we could not give up any points.”
After winning the 500-yard freestyle and being a favorite throughout the Big Ten Championship, Big Ten Freshmen of the Year Peter Vanderkaay fell short to Minnesota’s Justin Mortimer in the 1,650 free.
“It’s definitely disappointing, but it was a good time,” Vanderkaay said. “I gave it a good, effort but I just got to refocus and comeback to get ready for the NCAA, which we like to call the ‘Big Dance.'”
Although Vanderkaay lost, he was able to capture a NCAA automatic qualifying time, and with the help of four other Wolverines, allowed Michigan to maintain its narrow lead over Minnesota.
Following Vanderkaay’s loss, senior Garrett Mangieri furiously entered the pool for the 100-yard free. Mangieri’s intensity turned into results, as he came in second and helped Michigan gain momentum going into the final events.
Feeling the thrust for victory, Jeff Hopwood then attained a first-place finish in the 200-yard breaststroke with an NCAA automatic time of 1:56.31.
Hopwood then set the stage for the co-diver of the Championship, Jason Coben. Predicted to win most of the diving events during the tournament, Coben had yet to win any of the preliminary rounds until platform diving.
His concluding platform dive gave Michigan its final points needed for victory and a claim amongst the great swimming and diving teams in the university’s existence.
When all was said and done, Michigan had seven all-conference first-team finishers and an individual all-conference second-team finalist. Michigan’s first-place swimmers were Chuck Sayao, who competed in the 400-yard individual medley and the 800-yard free relay team, which consisted of freshmen Davis Tarwater, Mangieri, Vanderkaay and junior Dan Ketchum.
“(Minnesota) really put up a good effort,” Vanderkaay said. “They made the championship really exciting. That was definitely more fun then a total blowout.”
After Michigan and Minnesota, Indiana came in third with a score of 455 and Northwestern in fourth with a total of 378 points. Michigan State resided quietly at the bottom of the list with a score of 146.5.
“We should have home-court advantage more often,” Urbanchek said. “I think that this was really a total team effort. If we were going to win the Big Ten it was not going to be the top two guys, it was going to be everybody.”