In its very first event on Friday, the Michigan women’s swim and dive team left its opponents behind and competed against itself. The Wolverines’ A and B teams traded off leads throughout the 200-yard medley relay with the B team ultimately hitting the wall one hundredth of a second before the A team.
That dominance set the tone for Michigan’s impressive performance, which continued throughout the meet.
The 14th-ranked Wolverines (3-0) went on to win 13 of their 16 events in a tri-meet on Friday with a 227-70 win over Eastern Michigan (1-2) and a 211-86 win over Ohio University (3-2).
With the notable loss of Olympian Maggie MacNeil from the roster, Michigan relied on its freshman class to step up and deliver. And the Wolverine freshmen embraced the challenge.
In their first event of the day — the 200-yard freestyle — freshmen Katie Crom and Malia Amuan finished first and second with senior Maddie Bauer taking the third spot to complete the Michigan sweep.
A few events later, freshmen Devon Kitchel and Ella Jo Piersma touched the wall first and third, respectively, in the 200-yard butterfly. Junior Noelle Kaufmann finished second for yet another sweep by the Wolverines.
Crom continued her dominant performance with a big win in the 400-yard IM. She maintained a full body-length lead ahead of her closest competitor and finished with a time of 4:22.93. Amuan touched the wall second, clocking in at 4:28:16, and junior Claire Donan finished not far behind to snag third.
Michigan coach Mike Bottom was impressed by his freshman, referring to them as “our future.” He took particular note of Crom’s improvements.
“One of the things I love about Katie Crom is she is coachable and she’s making changes,” Bottom said. “This was a great showcase for her to execute those changes.”
With the Wolverines clearly in command of the meet — thanks in large part to their freshmen — the team was able to look at the bigger picture, namely the Big Ten Championships where each swimmer competes in three events. Although the Big Ten Championships are not until February, there are only a few meets remaining in which to determine each swimmer’s events.
“What we were trying to do is decide what we’re going to swim at Big Tens,” Bottom said. “We’re trying to work out what everybody’s second and third events are, and the only way to do that is for them to swim it.”
As a result, many of Michigan’s veteran swimmers competed in events different than their specialties from last season. Junior Kathryn Ackerman, for example, generally competes in freestyle and IM events. But on Friday, she competed in — and won — the 200 yard breaststroke. She credits the win to her versatility from her IM skills.
“I think a big part of (swimming IM) is training all the strokes and making sure that you’re efficient in every single stroke and every hundred that goes into the 400 IM,” Ackerman said.
Clearly her training paid off on Friday. And that success gives the freshmen more opportunities to solidify their own specialties, something that can take the Wolverines far.