This season has been anything but easy for the Michigan women”s swimming and diving team, but by looking at its work ethic, one would never know it.
Injuries and illness have left the Wolverines six swimmers short this fall, practices have been constant except for a quick breather two weekends ago and they have yet to compete in their own home pool.
“We”ve been on the road a lot and we”re tired,” said swimming coach Jim Richardson. But after taking the weekend of Nov. 16-17 off instead of competing in East Lansing and Ypsilanti, the swimmers” “mood state was considerably elevated the following Monday after having had two full days off. They earned the break. They”ve done everything we”ve asked them to do this fall, and they”ve done it well.”
The Wolverines will be asked to do one more thing before their fall season ends and their winter training begins in mid-December: carry their individual successes from this season into the Georgia Invitational beginning tomorrow.
The NCAA Championship-formatted event will be the first time that Michigan will have each of its swimmers try to qualify for the NCAA Championships this March. To prepare for this weekend, the Wolverines have sacrificed their bodies and sometimes their performances in dual meets. Using the meets as extra training, they enter the Peach State without a team win (0-3), but in the best condition possible.
“I think everybody is going to swim well,” Richardson said. “We”ve trained very well this fall and I”ve always believed you”re going to compete the way you train.”
Those who do not qualify at this meet will try again to peak at the Big Ten Championships in February, but by the way this season has gone so far, one can expect more than a few Wolverines to be invited to Austin, Texas for NCAAs.
Senior backstroke swimmer Lindsay Carlberg “was a consolation finalist last year. She”s certainly in a position to be able to get to the meet,” Richardson said. Annie Weilbacher (butterfly) “has been very fast this fall. She”s got as good an opportunity as anyone. But I think overall I am looking forward to seeing good times across the board.”
Richardson also expects his two newcomers sophomore Kelli Stein in the breaststroke events and freshman Amy McCullough in the 500- and 1650-yard freestyle to be very competitive in qualifying, as each have tasted victory in their events already this season.
The Georgia Invitational will also be the first true test for the freshmen, as it is a three-day event against some of the best in the nation. The Bulldogs have swimmers ranked in the top 10 in 11 of the 13 events that are raced at NCAAs. No. 19 Alabama and Minnesota which already beat Michigan will come in as well.
How the freshman handle the pressure of facing top competition will be a determining factor in whether the Wolverines will triumph as a full team or just individuals.
“This could be one of the best teams we”ve ever had at the University of Michigan so far in terms of how the team goes about doing what they do everyday,” Richardson said. “I can”t think of a better group of young women we”ve had here in my sixteen years here.
“We deserve to swim well, and I think we will.”