MINNEAPOLIS ? The smile said it all.Standing on the podium in front of his family, his friends and the swimming community, junior Peter Vanderkaay waved a number one above his head and accepted the first-place NCAA trophy for winning the 500-yard freestyle.
Vanderkaay led the Michigan men?s swimming and diving team to a ninth-place standing last night after claiming the freestyle on the first day of competition at the men?s NCAA swimming championships in Minneapolis.
In the morning prelims of the 500-yard freestyle, Vanderkaay led his heat for the first two hundred yards of the race. Slowing down his pace for the final portion, Vanderkaay allowed Justin Mortimer of Minnesota to draft off of him and ultimately outtouch him by eight-hundreths of a second.
?I tried to keep it smooth in prelims,? Vanderkaay said. ?I wanted to save up for the finals.?
His strategy worked.
Vanderkaay opened up the first four laps of the 20-lap race in 47.52, the fastest 100-yards of the day.
?I told him he has more speed than anyone else in the race and that he should take it out more aggressively and just keep going,? coach Bob Bowman said.
The field of eight swimmers tried to keep up with Vanderkaay for the next six laps, but they were unable to break the half-body lead that he had taken from his opponents. With 10 laps left in the race, Vanderkaay broke further away from the pack and created a two-body lead off second place Mortimer.
?I tried to go out pretty smooth but not too slow,? Vanderkaay said. ?I just wanted to hammer that last half of the race.?
Turning into his final lap of the race, the crowd rose to its feet in encouragement of breaking the American record of 4:08.75 set by Michigan alum and Olympic great, Tom Dolan. Vanderkaay hit the wall and immediately looked around to the scoreboard to see his time. It was 4:09.82, just 1.07 seconds off.
While Peter would have liked to have broken the record, he was far from being upset.
?The race went exactly the way I wanted it to,? Vanderkaay said. ?I felt like I stuck to the game, plan, and I was happy with my time ? it was my best time by a couple of seconds. I was trying to go for the record, though.?
Peter?s parents, Robin and Mark Vanderkaay watched Peter win the 500-yard freestyle and couldn?t help but be proud. They believed that winning the race will push him to do better over the next couple of days.
?It going to pump him up,? Mark Vanderkaay said. ?I think it will pump up the rest of the kids on the team also. He?s going to be pretty tough in the (200-yard freestyle) and the mile.?
While Bowman was pleased with the results of the first day of competition, he expects the team to get better everyday.
?We?re very strong in the 800-yard freestyle relay and the 100 specialty events, which are later in the weekend,? Bowman said. ?But I think a ninth-place standing is a great place to be after the first day. I think we did just as well as we could do. We had a lot of time drops and fast swims. That?s what we came here to do. We just need the guys to be fast in the morning and faster at night for the next two days. It?s a very simple game.?
Today the Wolverines will compete in the second day of preliminary action, starting at 12 p.m. and the finals begin at 7 p.m.