With the excitement of a rivalry meet already in the air,
Michigan women’s swimming and diving team wrapped up one of
its final practices before its Big Ten season opener against
Michigan State today.

Coach Jim Richardson and his captains are looking at this
matchup as an opportunity to gauge the team’s overall
performance, concentrating on the freshmen, who make up half of the
team.

“Hopefully we win the meet, and people just get good solid
swims in and the freshmen just keep getting more and more used to
the format of college swimming and it will give everyone an
opportunity just to get used to things,” junior captain Abby
Seskevics said.

Although Richardson won’t be looking for the freshmen to
step up and reach their potential this early in the season, so far
he likes what he sees.

“I like the progress I am seeing in training now.”
Richardson said. “They seem to be adapting very well to the
things that we are asking them to do and I believe that if they
will continually do that over the next couple of months, we can see
them have some very special performances by the Big Ten
(Championship).”

All of the upperclassmen on the team have been extremely
supportive of the freshmen and know how difficult the adjustment to
college life can be. They are always there to help them improve
their form and are constantly making sure the freshmen don’t
feel any pressure to step it up at today’s meet.

“I think they have done a really good job of
adapting.” Seskevics said. “This group of girls just
seems to fit right in to the team so that worked out really well.
We have just been trying to encourage them and let them know that
first semester freshman year is really hard and if they need any
help or anything we are always there for them.”

Richardson also recognizes the difficulty freshmen tend to have
in adapting to college life and that is one of the main reasons he
is not putting any pressure on them.

“It’s very hard to come from a club program or a
high school program into what we do, both in the water and on the
dry land deck, and that’s why I expect to see a little more
out of the freshmen by January, once they adapt to what they are
doing,” Richardson said.

While the prospect of back-to-back Big Ten titles is realistic,
Richardson refuses to think of this season as defending the title,
and prefers to look at this year’s team as a completely
different one.

“This is not the same team that won the title last
year.” Richardson said. “They have never swum in a Big
Ten championship. So this group of athletes is not really defending
a title. The athletes that won it last year, half of them are gone,
so we don’t look at it that way. This is a unique team and
they are going to create their own destiny for this year. I’m
hoping it will be the kind of team that will make things
interesting at the Big Ten championships.”

As for the in-state rivalry against Michigan State, many of the
swimmers feel it is mainly in football, but it still seems to carry
a little more weight than any other Big Ten matchup. With their
showdown falling just three days before the football game at the
Big House, an extra point for the Pontiac Cup — a title
awarded to the school (Michigan or Michigan State) that accumulates
the most points through wins against the opposite school in all
sports — is lurking in the back of their minds.

“Michigan and Michigan State, I don’t care if you
play tiddlywinks, a crowd would show up and the results would be
meaningful,” Richardson said. It’s like playing ball in
the neighborhood, you didn’t want to lose to them because you
knew you were going to get it the next day. It’s very much
that same kind of thing, it’s fun, it’s with people
that are in your backyard, both teams want to win, they are going
to bring their best, and that is the great thing about college
athletics. It makes it fun to be a part of something like
that.”

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