Even with an eye toward the future, the No. 4 Michigan women’s swimming and diving team found itself looking back at a record-breaking title run at the UGA Fall Invitational on Dec. 3.
The Wolverines led the event at the end of each day, scoring 991.5 points and beating second-place Georgia by 158 points. The standout swimmer from Michigan was junior Siobhan Haughey, who set a school record in the 100-yard freestyle and the 200-yard free swim, and was part of the school-record time for the 400-yard freestyle as well.
“Siobhan’s looking at a Big Ten championship and an NCAA Championship,” said Michigan assistant head coach Rick Bishop. “While at this meet she was great and she swam well, she didn’t take a lot of rest. Her focus is down the road, for the team. She really wanted the relays to be good.
“The relays are all about the team, so she’s thinking, ‘What can I do for the team?’, and from that I think we’ll be good down the road in the Big Ten and the NCAAs.”
Head coach Mike Bottom pointed to freshman Emma Cleason as one of many swimmers who showed improvement at the invitational. While Cleason was in the consolation bracket, the Ann Arbor native cut two-and-a-half seconds off her previous 200-yard butterfly time to finish with the fifth-fastest time in Michigan history.
“Our depth comes from people like Emma Cleason,” Bottom said. “This is a girl who is a local, whose parents live right down the street from the University. She came in not as good as she is right now and dropped three seconds off her 200-fly today. That is how our team is built.
“Our team is built on development and getting our swimmers better, instead of getting the best swimmers. (Other programs) get the best swimmers, but what Rick is doing with the team is developing a great group of women who can compete with the best.”
Cleason is just one example of how the team is continually looking to the future, staying true to its developmental culture instead of trying to lock in postseason glory by getting the best players right out of the gate. Some of the teams that the Wolverines faced at the invitational, like Georgia and California, have won NCAA Championships in the last five years.
Still, Bottom is more worried about building a winning culture.
“To be able to compete against Georgia and Cal-Berkeley — both teams who in the last five years we have seen win the NCAAs — and for us to be competitive with them and beat them is great,” Bottom said. “…We are swimming to create champions and a lot of other programs are swimming to win championships.”
If its performance at the UGA Fall Invitational is any indicator, though, Michigan may already be doing both.