The Michigan women’s swimming and diving team left the Big Ten Championships with a feeling of disappointment after finishing in eighth place — the lowest at a conference meet in school history.
This season’s finish also marked just the second time in Michigan coach Jim Richardson’s 27 years at the helm where the team did not crown a single conference champion. Before this weekend, the only Michigan team that did not have a swimmer or diver win a conference championship event was back in 2002.
“The last couple days, I’d rather put it in the bag and bury it,” Richardson said. “It is not reflective of the way we trained. I can’t remember a Big Ten meet for us being as tough as this one was for us.
“We jumped a relay that first night that put us in the hole, and I think that made us a little shell-shocked. I thought we came out better last night, but it was a struggle for us at times, no doubt.”
The Wolverines fell short in the meet for one major reason: They were simply worn out.
“It was apparent that when we got to the meet that in order to go fast, they had to work harder than I wanted them to,” Richardson said. “As a coach, when you’re training really hard and you’re looking really good, you tend to want to let them continue to do that probably longer than I should have.”
Despite their fatigue, many Wolverines had great performances.
Sophomore Courtney Biedler had a breakout meet, finishing with two career-bests in the 200 and 400-yard individual medley events.
Sophomore Angela Chokran was diagnosed with mono two-and-a-half weeks before the meet, but she still managed to place eighth in the 100-yard breaststroke and ninth in the 200-yard breaststroke.
“Angela Chokran — to come out of mono — that’s amazing to do what she did,” Richardson said.
Senior Caitlin Dauw earned All-Big Ten Second Team honors, swimming to a fifth-place finish in the 200-yard butterfly and a second-place finish in the 100-yard butterfly, which she had won the previous year. Dauw credits her consistency to working day in and day out and learning how to swim even when fatigued.
“As a team, it was disappointing to not necessarily perform the way that we’ve trained to perform all year, but I don’t think that our finish in the standings is representative of what we’re capable of,” Dauw said.
In preparation for the NCAA Regionals beginning on March 8, Richardson noted his one-word strategy: rest.
“We’re really going to rest the next week and see if we can pick up some neural recovery,” Richardson said. “We weren’t on our ‘A’ game, and you come to Big Tens, you better have it. We’ve got some rewiring to do and see if we can get this one figured out.”
The Wolverines are looking to show their full potential in this year’s NCAA Championships. They finished that event tied for 30th in 2011.