Usually, a coach would be worried if his team entered a competition tired.
But going into the SMU Classic in Dallas on Friday and Saturday, men’s swimming and diving coach Mike Bottom wasn’t concerned that his team was exhausted.
In fact, he was glad.
Junior Tyler Clary described the team’s preparation during the days before the meet.
“We swam a hard threshold workout on Monday, we had a hard lactate workout on Tuesday, Wednesday was really tough and we lifted hard on Thursday.”
And as if that wasn’t enough, Bottom had the team swim 6,000 yards each morning before the meet even started. Enough to swim down the length of a football field and back 30 times.
Despite their fatigue, the Wolverines battled and won the meet for the second-straight year. They faced a difficult field of six teams including No. 6 Florida, No. 13 Southern California, No. 19 Purdue and several professional swimmers from Swim MAC Carolina, a club team. With only two heats of each event, Michigan was allowed to bring just eight of its top swimmers and one diver.
While the Wolverines may not be used to such intensity before a meet, it wasn’t torture or punishment. It’s all part of the coaches’ plan to prepare for better performances in the NCAA Championships, for which the Wolverines got off to a slow start last year in Bottom’s first season as coach.
“Last year we rested too much for the in-season meets and when we got to the NCAA meet we weren’t as sharp as we should have been,” senior co-captain André Schultz said. “Our approach now is rougher, it’s tougher and it hurts a lot more to race, but I think it’s going to be worth it in the long run.”
Clary led the team in points from individual events. He won the 400-yard individual medley (3:50.09) and the consolation finals of the 100-yard backstroke. Senior co-captain Chris Brady won the 100-yard butterfly (47.36) and placed second in the 50-yard freestyle behind Cullen Jones, a U.S. Olympic gold medalist in 2008.
Senior Alon Mandel won the consolation finals in the 200-yard butterfly. He placed second in the championship heat of the 100-yard backstroke — losing to MAC’s Nichol Thoman, who set a new pool record.
“I had a really good meet,” Mandel said. “I swam faster than last year when I was wearing a full body suit (which is longer allowed) so that was encouraging because there is a physical and psychological component to not wearing that.”
And Michigan’s performance was more than encouraging. Even though the Wolverines failed to win a single championship final on the second day of competition, their overall consistency in the lineup won the meet.
Bottom, widely considered one of the world’s best sprint coaches, loves to develop a strong mentality for racing in his swimmers. And he enjoyed watching his team fight for every point in the close races.
“We’re building character, we’re building camaraderie, learning how to race and we’re gaining momentum,” he said. “That’s the process of building a good team and hopefully this carries over to the next meet and the next meet.”
If it does, there’s one thing no one will be tired of. Winning.
EMU: While nine of their teammates competed in Texas at the SMU Classic, the rest of the Wolverines competed against neighboring Eastern Michigan.
Like last year, all events in the meet were relays, with each relay team consisting of swimmers from both schools. The meet was not scored.
“It’s a great opportunity to recognize the community and fellowship of athletics,” Michigan assistant coach Dr. Josh White said. “Competition is usually the main focus, but the friendship between these two schools that are so close, the community of the sport is what we were trying to emphasize.”