The Michigan men”s swimming and diving team nearly knocked off the best program in the country Saturday afternoon, led by outstanding performances from freshmen distance swimmers Brendan Neligan and Andrew Hurd. No. 1 Stanford came out with a 134-109 victory, but its swimmers certainly had to swim their best in order to keep the No. 12 Wolverines from pulling off an upset.
“We”re just getting outstanding performances from our freshmen,” Michigan coach John Urbanchek said. “Hurd and Neligan, those guys immediately stepped up. The bigger the meet, the bigger they swim.”
A crowd of 750 looked on as Neligan swam away with the 1000-yard and 500-yard freestyle races, finishing several seconds ahead of the nearest competitors. In the same races, Hurd kept things exciting by sprinting past the Stanford swimmers in the final lap of both contests and dramatically placing second behind his teammate.
Although he was disappointed by the outcome of the meet, Neligan said the Wolverines were very happy with their performance.
“We”re ecstatic. I mean, we”re a little disappointed that we lost, but we all swam personal bests today,” Neligan said. “We swam out of our suits. If you want to say it, it”s a good loss. It”s a great loss.”
Neligan and Hurd”s 1-2 finish in the 1000-yard freestyle gave Michigan a boost early in the meet. In the next race, the 200-yard freestyle, junior Garrett Mangieri and sophomore Dan Ketchum also swam to a 1-2 finish for the Wolverines.
“It was an exciting point after the 1000 free, and I just took the momentum into the next race,” Mangieri said. “It”s a big rivalry we have, and it”s always a fight to the finish like it was today.”
Michigan kept rolling after Mangieri”s race, with Ketchum picking up valuable points by finishing second in the 200-yard butterfly and sophomore diver Jason Coben winning both the one-meter and three-meter diving contests. Another 1-2 finish from Neligan and Hurd in the 500 free gave the team momentum going into the last two events with the score 111-96, but Stanford won the final relay by 16 hundredths of a second and finished the meet on top.
“Ketchum was back about sixth one-hundredths in two events, and that would have been the difference in the ballgame,” Urbanchek said. “This meet could have gone either way.”
Despite dropping to 4-3 for the season, the Wolverines performed well this weekend, turning in many personal bests. Neligan, Mangieri and Ketchum combined for five NCAA consideration times between them and three other Wolverines swam NCAA consideration times as well.
“Regardless of what the score is, the times for both teams were outstanding,” Urbanchek said. “It”s not too often that you have a dual meet where you have pool records set in midseason.”
Two Stanford swimmers, Marcus Rogan and Peter Marshall, set pool records in the 400-yard individual medley and 100-yard backstroke, respectively. Michigan”s Neligan was a second off another Canham Natatorium record, finishing the 1000-yard freestyle in 9:00.41.
“The pool record wasn”t an issue heading into the meet. I really wanted to help us win this dual meet,” Neligan said. “Now that I see how close I was (to the record), it might be something I shoot for down the road.”
With three years ahead of him, the freshman will have plenty of time to chase records. Right now, though, the Wolverines are glad to have him and his fellow classmates turning in fast times and coming through with big wins in a meet as significant as one against Stanford.