The first time coach Bob Bowman saw junior Davis Tarwater swim was in the summer of 1999 at the Junior National swim meet in Orlando, Fla. Tarwater was 15 years old, and Bowman was coaching Michael Phelps at the time.

“I remember him clearly because he won the 1,500-meter freestyle and Michael came in second,” Bowman said. “I was very impressed and knew he would have a bright future. I was extremely excited when I got this coaching position and knew I would be able to work with his kind of talent.”

Tarwater began swimming competitively for Pilot Aquatic Club in Knoxville, Tenn., when he was 11 years old. He quickly became one of the top junior swimmers on the team and worked his way onto the national scene.

When his senior year of high school rolled around, Tarwater admitted that it was difficult making the decision to leave the South and attend school in Michigan.

“I sort of consider myself a native son of the South,” Tarwater said. “But Michigan was a great opportunity, and I needed to see a new part of the country.”

Looking back, Tarwater couldn’t more pleased with choosing to swim for the Wolverines.

“I can’t even describe in words how great of an experience this has been,” Tarwater said. “It almost brings tears to my eyes to think about the people I’ve met and just being able to have the opportunity to represent this institution. It has been an incredible honor.”

In Tarwater’s freshman year at Michigan, former coach Jon Urbanchek began putting the freestyler in butterfly events. Tarwater had never really specialized in the stroke, but he didn’t fight the coach on the technicality.

“I was a distance freestyler in high school, so I’ve only been doing butterfly seriously since my freshman year here,” Tarwater said. “At first it was a difficult adjustment. But it was what the team needed, and it let me contribute as a freshman.”

In retrospect, learning to specialize in the butterfly and utilize his versatility became one of the best decisions that Tarwater ever made. Tarwater has quickly defined himself as the top flyer on the team with team records in both the 100- and 200-yard event. He has also had the opportunity to compete in the events at the World University Games, the Goodwill Games and the Olympic trials.

When Bowman took over as coach this season, he was eager to work on Tarwater’s events and help him become an even faster swimmer. Bowman changed Tarwater’s training program in hopes of developing different aspects of his strengths.

“We’ve treated Davis with a little less mileage and more speed training,” Bowman said. “We’ve also put him through weight training, and I think its been improving his speed. He has a very strong work ethic and always wants to improve. Instead of just getting in the pool and doing what we tell him to do, he actually thinks about it and asks questions. He wants to know the theory behind what he’s doing. He has a genuine interest in his training program.”

Tarwater admitted that it was a difficult change to make at first. But he believes that he has responded better to Bowman’s program than to any other training regimen he has had in the past.

“There was a lot of wear and tear on my body at first,” Tarwater said. “But I’ve adjusted and it seems to be working well.”

Having already competed well at the Big Ten Championship meet — where he won the 200-yard butterfly for the second year in a row — Tarwater is focusing all of his training and energy on the NCAA Championships that will take place in two weeks. Bowman is hopeful that Tarwater will have a great meet and be able to label himself as one of the nation’s premier swimmers.

“My goal for him at NCAAs is for him to have a meet where he does all personal best times and where he feels like he has truly maximized all of his training,” Bowman said. “I think he has a chance to make the World Championship team and the next Olympics, and I think this championship meet will help him do that.”

While Tarwater has those same hopes, he has one other goal in mind.

“Since I began swimming here at Michigan, I’ve always wanted an NCAA Championships title,” Tarwater said. “Bowman has put me in a place where I can do that, so I am going to make a run this year.”

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