Nine members from the Michigan men’s swimming and diving
team will travel to East Meadow, N.Y., this weekend for a special
opportunity — the chance to swim in the NCAA Championships.
Eight swimmers and one diver will perform on the sport’s
brightest collegiate stage.

“This is the Big Dance,” retiring coach Jon
Urbanchek said. “And we’ll be dancing.”

Michigan will participate in 15 of 21 swimming events, while
senior diver Jason Coben will attempt to defend his co-National
Championship in 10-meter platform diving. Coben will also
participate in the one- and three-meter springboard contests.

Sophomore Peter Vanderkaay heads the field of swimmers with No.
1 seeds in both the 400- and 1,500-meter freestyle events.
Cal-Berkeley junior Draganja Duje is the only other swimmer with
multiple top rankings.

Senior captain Dan Ketchum (200-meter freestyle) and sophomore
Davis Tarwater (200-meter butterfly) have also earned top spots in
races at the Goodwill Games Aquatic Center. Sophomore Chris DeJong
and juniors Andrew Hurd, Zayd Ma, Chuck Sayao and Christian
Vanderkaay round out the group.

But swimmers and coaches alike know that a national championship
for the No. 10 team in the country is not feasible. Dominant squads
such as Stanford (17 swimmers), Texas (16) and Auburn (16) will
simply have too much manpower at the meet for the Wolverines to
overcome.

“If we swim up to our potential, we can be fifth,”
assistant coach Eric Namesnik said. “If we’re outside
the Top 10, that’s not a good finish for us. We are a little
bit smaller (than some other teams), but we just have to cash in on
our quality points.”

Urbanchek has tempered his expectations, anticipating a finish
slightly below the top five. His swimmers are more optimistic.

“I’m a little bit more conservative than the boys
are,” Namesnik said. “I’ve lived longer and I
have a little bit more experience, so I have to be optimistic, but
not overly optimistic. If everything goes according to the script,
we should rake up some points.”

Namesnik will look to Michigan’s four relay teams to
perform well against the nation’s best.

“Our relays have to come through for us,” he said.
“We haven’t been known for our relays, but
they’re pretty good this year, and we need to capitalize on
those.”

Peter Vanderkaay is thrilled about the possibilities awaiting
the team in New York.

“If I can keep those two No. 1 places, I would be really
happy,” he said. “I’ve never won (an individual)
title, so it would be very exciting. We’d all like to send
(Urbanchek) out with our best performance individually and as a
team because he means so much to the program and to us. We just
want to try and do our best for him.”

Tarwater, who — like Vanderkaay — is swimming in his
second NCAA Championships, feels last year’s experience was
valuable.

“This year I know what to expect, I know how the meet is
run, some of its idiosyncrasies,” Tarwater said. “That
experience definitely helps.”

Ketchum hopes to end his final meet wearing maize and blue in
style.

“I just want to end it on a good note,” he said.
“I’d like to get an NCAA title, whether it be relay or
individual. It’s quite a big honor for me to be going out
with (Urbanchek).”

The captain knows exactly what kind of effort his coach expects
from the team.

“We just have to do what (Michigan swimmers) have been
doing for the last 22 years under him,” Ketchum said,
“and swim like Michigan men.”

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