Since Michigan men’s and women’s swimming and diving coach Mike Bottom took over the women’s coaching duties in 2013, the team has been progressing — slowly but surely.
This year, the team made its biggest jump yet.
Competing at the NCAA Championships in Atlanta this past weekend, the Wolverines finished 10th overall — their best finish since 2008. Last season, the team finished 22nd in the nation.
“I am very pleased,” Bottom said. “Moving up 12 places is pretty impressive. I don’t think there is any other school that moved up as much as we did. Twelve places was quite a jump for a young team.”
The 12-spot jump follows a trend under Bottom of steady improvement. In 2014, Michigan finished 30th in the nation, and in 2013 — when the men’s team won a national championship with Bottom at the helm — the women’s team finished 36th.
Senior Ali DeLoof had a standout meet, setting a new Big Ten record in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 47.54. She finished fifth in the event and received All-American honors in both that event and the 50-yard freestyle.
DeLoof also finished in the top 10 in the 400-yard freestyle relay. The relay — consisting of DeLoof, her sister sophomore Gabby DeLoof, freshman Siobhán Haughey and freshman Becca Postoll — placed ninth with a time of 3:12.98, which also set a school record.
In order for the team to finish in the top 10, the relay had to finish at least fifth in the second heat. Not only did the relay finish fifth in the heat, but it ended up winning it. Though the relay didn’t qualify for the finals, its performance was good enough to cement a top-10 finish for Wolverines.
“It was really an impressive relay,” Bottom said.
Arguably the best event on the day for Michigan was the 1,650-yard freestyle. Freshman Yirong Bi set a school record with a time of 15:45.26 — a third-place finish — while sophomore Gillian Ryan came in ninth with a time of 16:01.45.
The meet comes four weeks after the Wolverines won their first Big Ten Championship in 12 years — another sign of the Mike Bottom resurgence.
“That was an emotional meet,” Bottom said. “Coming off of that and then coming here, it was a second boil for us. I think that the women really handled it well. In almost every case, they swam faster than they did at Big Tens. It was pretty exciting to watch the team respond to that.”
Even more impressive is that while preparing the women’s team for the NCAA Championships, Bottom was also coaching the men’s team to a sixth consecutive Big Ten Championship.
“I have such a great staff,” Bottom said. “Rick Bishop is the associate head coach on the women’s side and does an incredible job of planning and scheduling. These coaches really are an amazing staff, the best staff in the country. It’s a team performance all-around, whether for the coaching staff or for swimming and diving.”