As the applause rained down on retiring Michigan men’s
swimming and diving coach Jon Urbanchek near the end of the NCAA
Championships in East Meadow, N.Y., he knew he was leaving the
program in good shape.
“Michigan is back in the ballpark,” Urbanchek said.
“We’re back where we belong.”
The Wolverines’ 271 total points in the meet were good
enough for fifth place, Michigan’s highest NCAA finish since
ranking third in 1996. Auburn won the title on Saturday with a
score of 634. Seven world records were set over the course of the
The final result was as good a placement as the Wolverines could
have hoped for, since three teams at the top brought twice as many
swimmers as Michigan.
After being held without a national championship in a single
swimming event since Chris Thompson and Tim Siciliano both took
first in 2001, Michigan claimed three NCAA-best performances from
this year’s competition. Over the course of the three-day
schedule, sophomore Peter Vanderkaay won titles in the 400- and
1,500-meter freestyle races. The 800-meter freestyle relay team
— composed of senior captain Dan Ketchum, Vanderkaay,
sophomore Davis Tarwater and junior Andrew Hurd — also
captured a title in an NCAA-record time of 7:01.42.
Perhaps the most impressive event for Michigan was the 400-meter
freestyle during Thursday’s first session, in which Michigan
swimmers finished first, second and fourth.
“We own that race,” Urbanchek said. “We lived
up to the (Michigan) tradition. It was an awesome swim for Peter
(Vanderkaay). He made it look easy.”
Later that night, the 400-meter medley relay team of Chris
DeJong, Tarwater, Christian Vanderkaay and Ketchum qualified for
the event finals and displayed a strong resolve in finishing
“The goal in the relay was to make it into finals, and we
did,” Urbanchek said. “The water was real choppy
because we were behind, so we had to eat quite a few
The second day was a special one for Ketchum. In his final
career attempt to win his first NCAA title, the captain anchored
the victorious 800-meter freestyle relay and showed
uncharacteristic emotion afterwards.
“I’m very happy for Dan Ketchum,” Urbanchek
said. “(But) it was a team effort. I think everybody stepped
it up and put in their best effort.”
When Vanderkaay won the 1,500-meter freestyle on the final day
of competition, Urbanchek was allowed to present the awards for the
race. After handing out the hardware, all in attendance rose and
cheered Urbanchek and his career accomplishments for three solid
On Sunday evening, Urbanchek reflected on the ovation he
received in his last meet donning the maize and blue.
“That was a perfect closing for my NCAA career,” he
But personal acclaim has never been the most important thing for
the departing coach.
“I’m always worried about the team,” Urbanchek
said. “It’s not that important for me. I’m
leaving the program in better shape than when I found