The departure of the Michigan men’s swimming and diving
senior class was not the reason athletic director Bill Martin was
in attendance at Canham Natatorium on Friday night to witness the
No. 10 Wolverines’ 141-96 bludgeoning of Michigan State on
It was not the reason Dick Kimball — who coached
Michigan’s divers for an astounding 43 years before his
retirement last year — stopped by to watch the meet. It was
not even the reason the pool deck was mobbed with admirers long
after the conclusion of the meet.
The reason was Jon Urbanchek.
Michigan’s convincing victory gave the retiring coach an
unfathomable final conference-dual-meet mark of 100-4 (.962). It
was also his 200th career dual meet overall. But during a speech to
an excited audience beforehand, the lighthearted Urbanchek seemed
to have something else on his mind.
Having coached in Ann Arbor for 22 years — not to mention
his years as a Michigan swimmer from 1958-1961 — the coaching
legend felt he deserved a little something more, preferably with
“Where is the key to the BMW?” Urbanchek said
repeatedly, drawing laughs from anybody within earshot. “I
know it’s hiding someplace.”
While Urbanchek did not receive his dream car, he was showered
with praise throughout the course of the evening.
“Jon has been an absolute pleasure for me to work
with,” Martin said. “He’s going to be truly
missed. (But) I’m certain he’ll be here to help when we
need it. We won’t let him go.”
Kimball had no difficulty in recognizing the significance of
Urbanchek’s accomplishments, which include leading the 1995
team to the NCAA Championship and swimming on the 1959 and 1961
NCAA title teams. After all, they did coach together for 21
“He’s a fantastic coach,” Kimball said.
“The best distance coach in the country. It’s a
tremendous loss to Michigan. He’s a great guy; he can be
funny without even trying to be.”
The reality of the situation finally hit Tim Wera after his
victory in the 1,000-yard freestyle. It was his first event victory
of his senior season in his last dual meet as a Michigan
“I didn’t think my emotions would get to me,”
Wera said. “But I had to fight back some tears in the
Departing captain Dan Ketchum — who earned event wins in
the 200-yard individual medley and the 400-yard medley relay
— was characteristically stoic following his final home
“I didn’t cry,” Ketchum said. “I
didn’t cry at all.”
Senior diver Jason Coben, who won last year’s NCAA
Championship on the 10-meter platform, turned in the performance of
the night. His score of 379.35 points on six dives from the
one-meter springboard set a Big Ten record.
“I really dove the best I ever have,” Coben
Dusty Garwood, Josh Hack and Mike Porth also contributed in
their final dual meet for the Wolverines.
Even Urbanchek got a little misty-eyed after the last
competition in the pool he has called home for so long.
“I’m going to miss the association with the
athletes,” the coach said. “There’s a time when
we’ve got to go, so this was my time. I just have to move
The coach was thrilled with the large crowd, which included many
familiar faces from his past.
“I was very pleased to see so many older friends of mine
here,” Urbanchek said. “People I swam with, some of the
people I graduated with many years ago. It really impressed me how
many people actually do care about swimming. I guess they really
appreciate you a lot when you’re gone.”
Urbanchek was pleased that he and his seniors were able to go
out on top.
“For many of them, this was the last plunge,”
Urbanchek said. “For many of us. I’m sure I will
remember this one for a long time.”
But amidst the sentimental atmosphere, there were some amusing
moments, including the Michigan “C” Team’s
performance in the 200-yard freestyle relay, the meet’s final
event. Following tradition, this squad was composed of divers.
Despite finishing an embarrassing 20 seconds after the next-to-last
team, Coben enjoyed every minute of it.
“I would just like to say that I am the undisputed fastest
University of Michigan diver here,” Coben said.
“I’m not going to let any other divers forget it,
Ketchum milked his final moments of Canham competition for all
they were worth.
“It was hard to get out of the pool the last time,”
Ketchum said. “I didn’t want to get out, and I
don’t want to leave the deck now and let this meet really be
over. I’m trying to stay around and talk to everybody and
make this meet last as long as I can.”
Urbanchek is satisfied that he has prepared his swimmers for
their futures as best he can, both in and out of the pool.
“At least I have planted a seed in them,” Urbanchek
said. “I hope it’s going to grow.”
There’s no doubt that the seed will sprout and grow into a
strong, beautiful tree. The only problem for Urbancheck is that he
will not find a BMW in its shade.