As junior Siobhán Haughey touched the wall first in the final leg of the 800-yard freestyle relay on Friday night, it was clear that the defending Big Ten Champions had picked up right where they left off.
The relay squad that anchors the Michigan women’s swimming and diving team – senior Gabby Deloof and juniors Catie Deloof, Rose Bi and Haughey – won the event by over five seconds and notched an NCAA “A” time of 7:00.71.
The sixth-ranked Wolverines did not perform as convincingly as a whole, but they still showed their talent in the SMU Classic on Friday and Saturday. They finished third with a score of 322 behind perennial swimming powers No. 10 Louisville and No. 5 USC. No. 21 UCLA, Miami, and SMU rounded out the field.
Haughey, who represented Hong Kong at the 2016 Rio Olympics, noted that there was “a lot of competition”, as she squared off multiple times against Louisville’s Mallory Comerford. Comerford, a sprint freestyler who won the 200-yard freestyle at last year’s NCAA Championship, won five gold medals at this summer’s World Swimming Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
In the 200-yard freestyle, Haughey put up a fight against the defending NCAA champion, touching the wall less than a second after Comerford. In the 100-yard freestyle, she came up short against Comerford again but recorded a school-record time of 47.22 in the process.
The meet was not a traditional one — each team was allowed to bring just eight swimmers and one diver to the contest. Each event was comprised of only one swimmer from each school, giving the pool a “select” feel not usually present so early in the season.
“They were really thinking about fighting for their team back home in Ann Arbor,” said associate head coach Rick Bishop.
Added Haughey: “We were racing for them. … They made a video to tell us good luck.”
Bishop credited “great leadership” from senior team captains Clara Smiddy and Gabby Deloof in helping to keep the team focused in such a small group.
“They lead from the front,” Bishop said. “Their performances were great.”
Smiddy, in particular, led by example with her dominance in the backstroke events, winning the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 52.55 and placing second in the 200-yard backstroke. She also finished second in the 200-yard individual medley.
In addition to veteran leadership, Michigan’s young talent shined. Sophomore Miranda Tucker led the way in the breaststroke races, touching second in the 100-yard event and third in the 200-yard event. On the boards, freshmen diver Nikki Canale finished third in both the one-meter and three-meter diving events.
Five months out from the 2018 Big Ten Championships, the SMU Classic served as an early test for a Michigan team that already has its sights set on a third consecutive Big Ten title.
“This is just a meet in a very long journey,” Haughey said. “Our end goal is a Big Ten Championship.”