On a day that culminated four years of struggle for the Michigan women’s swimming and diving team, Siobhán Haughey was somewhat of an exception to the rule.
The Wolverines won their first Big Ten Championship since 2004 on Saturday, drawing a near-capacity crowd to Canham Natatorium to see them end their 12-year drought.
Senior captain Ali DeLoof was the human interest story of the day, a senior who stuck with the program during its down years and battled sickness to compete in the conference meet and finish in the top three in three individual races. Michigan coach Mike Bottom was the logical explanation for the turnaround, with his coaching wizardry reviving the program to conference supremacy after years of mediocrity. But when Michigan’s senior class earned the championship it has craved for four trying years, the star of the meet was a freshman.
Haughey, who won the 100-yard and 200-yard freestyles and claimed the Big Ten’s Swimmer of the Championships award, was not here when Michigan finished sixth in the conference in 2013 or fifth in 2014. She didn’t watch the Wolverine men swim to a national title in 2012-13 while her team finished 36th. She was an outlier on a team of women who didn’t always know whether they would reach the top platform at the Big Ten Championship.
“I always tell my teammates that I think I’m spoiled to have my first Big Tens at home, because you don’t get that chance very often,” Haughey said. “Every day, our captains and coaches have been reminding us that we’ve worked very hard to be where we are today, and the captains keep reminding us that the last time we won the Big Ten Championship was 12 years ago.”
The moment Michigan accepted the trophy was fitting for the end of a decade-long dry spell. As they accepted their hardware, the Wolverines stood atop the podium, practically screaming along to Flo Rida’s song “My House.” Michigan’s captains from the last four years came to the meet, watching their years of sweat finally amount to a trophy in the Canham pool.
And while the moment belonged to Wolverines of all generations, it was Haughey, the potential star of the next era of Michigan swimming, who took home the greatest individual honor.
According to DeLoof, a big part of that was simply bringing in swimmers like Haughey, ones who could get the job done. Bottom preached to his team to trust the process, but part of the success was simply a result of the personnel.
“Just recruiting really good girls, really fast girls,” DeLoof said. “And just the work that we do in and out of the pool is really … it just really says something about our team.”
Haughey fills both of those criteria, and her presence tipped the scales to culminate a long return to prominence for the Wolverines.
DeLoof, the leader and outgoing star of the team, certainly knows how much work her class and those before it put in to set the foundation for Saturday’s trophy ceremony. Without her leadership, they wouldn’t have been in position to win in the first place. But between Haughey and fellow underclassmen Clara Smiddy, Rose Bi and Gabby DeLoof, a certain passing of the torch has taken place.
Haughey even beat DeLoof in the 100-yard freestyle finals, an event DeLoof was seeded to win. Smiddy did the same to the captain in the 200-yard backstroke.
Now, for the first time in a long time, there are a handful of young Olympic hopefuls on the roster, hoping to ensure Michigan doesn’t go 12 more years without a conference title.
The Wolverines didn’t care how it happened this weekend. They won the title as a team, not as individuals, and they were as happy for Haughey as anyone when she was announced as the meet’s top swimmer.
“We knew she would get swimmer of the meet,” Smiddy said. “She’s amazing.”
So when the meet ended and the Wolverines sang Flo Rida’s last chorus, “Welcome to my house,” it rang a little truer for Haughey. Canham hasn’t been her home for long, but she’ll be dominating it for years to come.