Senior Margaret Kelly touched the wall first in the 200-yard individual medley, but she didn’t have much time to celebrate the victory.
Moments later, she stepped onto the starting block to anchor the 200-yard freestyle relay. While the Wolverines maintained a slight lead in the first half of the race, Northwestern captured the lead by 14 hundredths of a second heading into the final leg when Kelly took over for Michigan.
The senior finished the final 50 yards in a blistering 22.63 seconds to give the Wolverines the event victory. Kelly’s final leg was the fastest split among her teammates.
“It wasn’t easy,” Kelly said of the final race. “I think it’s easier to go from a longer event to a shorter one. So that kind of helped, and I just took some deep breaths. I knew I could do it.”
The performance gave No. 16 Michigan its first Big Ten victory of the season over No. 23 Northwestern, 157.5 to 142.5.
But the win took a little help from the Wildcats.
In the first event of the afternoon, Northwestern’s 400-yard medley relay finished first, but the Wildcats were disqualified for jumping one of the exchanges.
The result could have swayed the outcome in what turned out to be a close meet between the two ranked teams.
“We knew it would be close,” Michigan coach Jim Richardson said. “I’m sorry for Northwestern that they jumped it because it would have been a one-point meet. I’m glad the meet didn’t come down to that relay making a difference.”
The Wolverines (1-1 Big Ten, 3-5 overall) were also propelled to victory by fifth-year senior distance specialist Emily Brunemann.
After suffering a rare loss in one of her specialty events last weekend, Brunemann returned to form against Northwestern (1-3, 4-3). She started the 500-yard freestyle strong, cruising to an easy victory. Brunemann also captured an event victory in the 1000-yard freestyle. Brunemann and senior Emily Hanson took the top two spots in the event.
“I had a lot of motivation,” Brunemann said. “I looked at the score before I got up for the 500 and at that point I don’t know if it was adjusted or not, but we were 101 and they had 105. I wasn’t okay with that and I wanted to do something to make sure we pulled back ahead.”
For the first time this season, Brunemann competed in the 200-yard butterfly. The event pinned arguably Michigan’s two best swimmers against one another, Kelly and Brunemann. Kelly took control of the race early and never relinquished the lead, touching the wall first. Surprisingly, Brunemann wasn’t far behind, finishing in second place in an event she rarely swims.
The Wolverines won the final three events to seal their first Big Ten victory of the season. But the win didn’t come without some adversity. Michigan sophomore Caitlin Dauw sat out due to a back injury and senior Emily Christy struggled through a shoulder injury. Junior Natasha Moodie and freshman Julia Andracki also battled through illness during the meet.
“I think we needed it coming off a couple losses,” Brunemann said. “I think it was something that really motivated the team and something that we needed as a team to keep our eye on the main prize at the end of the year.”