After swimming in three events and totaling more than 100 laps of competition, senior co-captain Peter Vanderkaay stepped up on the block to anchor the final race of the afternoon – the 200-yard freestyle relay.
With an arm’s length of open water between the Michigan relay team and the inching Georgia relay, Vanderkaay cleared the water with a fast start and left the Bulldogs floundering in his wake. After a strong turn, Vanderkaay sprinted in his final lap and hit the wall with a dominating clash – 19.97 – the fastest split of any swimmer in the race.
Said Vanderkaay: “I was thinking, ‘Well, I’ve swam 2,500 yards already. I might as well go out with a bang.'”
The No. 4 Michigan men’s swimming and diving team hosted No. 11 Georgia on Saturday and impressively dominated the 2004 SEC Champions, 179-121.
“I think the meet went well,” Michigan coach Bob Bowman said. “The guys stepped up and did what they needed to do. Georgia is a very good team, and I think we showed that we are much improved.”
In the past, Michigan has been led by a strong distance team, while its sprinters have fallen short against most elite programs.
But this year has been different. After recruiting four freshman sprinters, the first-years proved their abilities this weekend, scoring important points which would have been lost last year.
Freshman sprinter Bobby Savulich secured a win in the 200-yard freestyle, went on to earn a second place finish in the 50-yard free and was third in the 100-yard free. Teammates Brian Vessels and Jamie Martone followed Savulich and earned top-five finishes in each of their events.
“They’re all coming along,” Bowman said. “They’re still not ready to compete with the very best, but they’re much improved, and I think they can get the job done for us.
“They’re all still figuring things out. They’re still trying to cope with swimming a lot of events very close together at a high level.”
The freshmen only had to look at senior captains Vanderkaay, Davis Tarwater and Chris Dejong for good examples of swimming several events with little time between them. All three swimmers won each of their individual races and relays. Bowman was pleased with how his top-three swimmers performed on Saturday and said he thinks they are exactly where they need to be at this point in the season.
Speaking specifically to Vanderkaay’s races, Bowman thought the senior was filling the role of captain and champion swimmer.
“His (200-yard freestyle relay) split was an exceptional swim,” Bowman said. “To come out of the 400 (yard individual medley) and show that kind of speed just shows you the kind of kid Peter is. He’s as tough as they come.”
Olympians Michael Phelps and Klete Keller faced off in two exhibition races on Saturday during breaks between races. Phelps broke his own pool record in the 200-yard freestyle by one second (1:33.41) and fell short of breaking his pool record in the 100-yard freestyle by .01.
“They swam fantastic,” Bowman said. “Those were great times for both Michael and Klete. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
Michigan will get a meet-free week this week and then it will swim against Michigan State on Nov. 18 at Canham.
“We’ll train really hard before then,” Bowman said. “We’ll try to correct some of the things that didn’t go well here and see if we can make some improvements. I think Michigan State will offer us the chance for some people to swim some events that might not be their best.”