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Key Losses: Dan Madwed (33 NCAA Points, 4 NCAA Relays), Jan Konarzewski (Big Ten Finalist in 100 back)
Key Addtions: Zack Turk (Transfer – Kenyon College), Dylan Bosch (South Africa – Fly/IM), Hassan Abdel-Khalik (return from redshirt – Mid D), Reid Elliott (TX – Free/Back/Fly), Peter Brumm (NC – Free/Fly/Back), Jeremy Raisky (Fly), Timothy Faerber (Diving)
2011-2012 Lookback: In 2012, this Michigan team started seeing the payoff from three-straight seasons of electric recruiting, including that still-legendary class of 2011 that had over 20 athletes including names like Kyle Whitaker, Sean Ryan, and Connor Jaeger. After finishing 9th nationally the season before, and second in the conference, the Wolverines remained on their perches as the Big Ten Champions and broke through to the top tier at NCAA’s with a 5th-place finish.
Their only major loss in the offseason was the graduation of Dan Madwed, a fantastic leader and a great swimmer for this team, but other than that this is a team that certainly has more pieces this year than it did last season.
What is an exciting season in Ann Arbor got off to a bit of an inauspicious start, as the entire group of upperclassmen were suspended for a week for reasons that are yet still undisclosed. Now that the teams have worked through that hiccup, the excitement is building again for this team. With the potentially revolutionary Michigan Water Carnival coming up in early October, a new era in Michigan swimming with the men and women unified under the direction of Mike Bottom, and Connor Jaeger as one of only two American men’s Olympians who still have college eligibility left (Georgia’s Andrew Gemmell is the other), there is plenty for Michigan fans to be upbeat about.
Distance Group: Even with Mike Bottom, known for his work with sprinters, leading the Wolverines, they’ve developed into one of the best distance programs in the country under the leadership of associate head coach Dr. Josh White.
At NCAA’s last year, Michigan had two swimmers in the top six, and three scorers overall, in the 1650 freestyle. The leader of those three was perhaps the biggest surprise: Jaeger. He placed 3rd overall in the 1650, though that was pretty far behind the two record breakers that were first and second – about 11 seconds behind. With two other former National Team swimmers in the distance group, Jaeger emerged at NCAA’s with a 14:35 in only the third recorded time he’d ever swum the race.
He would then make an even more shocking jump by finishing 2nd in the event at the Olympic Trials and earning a trip to London. There, he made the final and finished 6th overall.
Sean Ryan was 6th at NCAA’s in that same evnet, and Ryan Feeley was 15th in the mile at NCAA’s. The group didn’t fare quite as well in the 500 (Jaeger and Ryan are 5th-and-6th, respectively, but both missed best times in finals), but they still garnered big points.
Medley Relay Shuffle: Bottom, for the past two seasons, has been very creative in how he assembles his best medley relays. With Madwed’s graduation it would seem as though this season he will be shuffling them around again. Both medleys were 6th at NCAA’s last season.
Expect this year’s 200 yard group to look something like Miguel Ortiz, Bruno Ortiz, Sean Fletcher, and transfer Zack Turk (more on Turk later). Of course, each one of those swimmers could easily take over a different leg – Miguel Ortiz could anchor, Bruno Ortiz could swim the breaststroke leg, Fletcher could swim either free or backstroke, and someone entirely new could jump up and move onto the relay (perhaps John Wojciechowski, who was 19th at NCAA’s in the 100 fly last season).
But this looks like it’s going to be the best relay. Miguel Ortiz finished 10th at last year’s NCAA Championships in the 100 back (he was a 46.33 at Big Tens). Sophomore Richard Funk was 18th in the 100 breast (he was 53.15 at Big Tens). Fletcher, the public school National High School Record holder, won the B-Final at NCAA’s last season in 45.98, and finally the younger Ortiz, Bruno, was the big surprise, swimming multiple 43.5’s in the 100 free as only a freshman. One would expect maybe Funk to take over the breaststroke on the 400 medley and for Bruno Ortiz to move to the freestyle.
Free Relays: These Michigan sprint relays snuck up on some people at NCAA’s, with their 200 placing 10th and their 400 winning the B-Final. From the combination of those two relays, they’re only graduating a single swimmer: Madwed, who anchored the 400 free relay.
The Ortiz brothers should both be around 43.0’s or better in the 100 this season, and both will be aiming to score individually in at least the 50 – Miguel was 20th last year in a 19.70, and though Bruno didn’t swim it at NCAA’s, he was a 19.6 on a relay.
They were joined last year by Evan Gregg on the 200 free relay. Gregg is another 19.7 50 freestyler, but they still need at least a piece to fill out their 400.
The Wolverines have brought in a secret weapon this year, though, in senior transfer Zack Turk. This could be a game-changer for the Wolverines: despite swimming for Division III Kenyon College last year, Turk was one of the fastest collegiate 50 freestylers, period. He was a 19.38 in prelims of the Division III Championships to crush his own division record; only 6 swimmers in Division I were faster last season.
What’s more, Turk was fantastic on relays : he twice split under 19 seconds. Michigan hasn’t had a sprinter that good since the early 1990’s; in fact, Turk’s best time is already just .02 from the school record. He’s also been a 43.16 in the 100 free. Expect him to swim in at least three of the four shorter relays, and make each of them top 6-7 squads.
The Legendary 800 Free Relay: The Michigan 800 didn’t quite live up to past Michigan 800 free relays: an event that they have made a hallmark of their program for the last few decades, but they still placed 5th even without their best performance at NCAA’s. Junior Michael Wynalda was the best piece of this relay; in a bit of a weak field last year, the junior-to-be was 6th in the individual 200 in 1:34.6, with a best of 1:34.3 in prelims. He could be the hammer who gets down to that 1:33 this season for the Wolverines, and takes the relay back to the top three.
He should expect to be joined by Jaeger at least, who despite his move to the mile was still able to swim a lifetime best of 1:35.3 in the 200 free. The Wolverines will also see the return of Canadian Hassaan Abdel-Khalik, who missed last season on an Olympic redshirt. He has a best of 1:34.9 from 2010, which will easily replace Madwed’s loss. He should also be a scorer in the 500 individually, with a best of 4:15.
Kyle Whitaker filled in the final spot last year, but at NCAA’s was only 1:36.00 on a rolling start. He’s been 1:33’s in that same position though in past seasons. Texas and Cal are favored in this relay again, but if those four are all swimming well, this is certainly a relay that can place 3rd. If one of them stumbles, incoming freshman Dylan Bosch, who has been a 1:50 in long course, will be ready to jump in.
Whitaker’s IM’s: Though he only contributes to one relay, Whitaker should be the Wolverines’ best individual scorer next season. Last season, he had bests of 1:43.20 in the 200 IM and 3:41.04 in the 400 IM, the latter of which he placed 2nd in at NCAA’s. He should be a significant favorite to win the 400 IM this season, and is the Wolverines’ best shot at a National Title,
As a third event, he can swim pretty much any 200 yard race, but has gravitated toward the fly at Michigan. Last year he was 17th at NCAA’s, though a season’s best would’ve put him in the A-Final. He could be one of two to get to there in 2013, as Wojciechowski won the B-Final last year.
Other Scorers: Bruno Ortiz was DQ’ed in the 100 breaststroke at NCAA’s last year as a freshman, and will expect to score this year. Another breaststroker, Kyle Duckitt, had a very good sophomore season in Ann Arbor with bests of 54.4/1:57.6. He didn’t have his best summer ever, but still swam pretty well at South Africa’s Olympic Trials, shortly after NCAA’s, to final in both distances.
Freshman Class: Michigan has brought in yet another impressive freshman class this season. That starts with South African Dylan Bosch, who initially intended to go to LSU before quickly changing his commitment to Michigan.
Bosch will basically slide into Madwed’s role. He has bests of 53.7 and 1:59.2, as well as a 2:02 in the 200 IM. He should have an oustanding future as an IM’er, and should be at least a two-event scorer at NCAA’s as a freshman.
SwimMAC Carolina’s Peter Brumm is exactly the kind of recruit that this Mike Bottom program has done so well with. He’s already a very good freestyler, with bests of 44.7 and 1:37.7 in the 100 and 200; but he’s also got a 48.5 in the 100 back and a 48.3 in the 100 fly. That means he could, down the line, be used in any one of three medley relay spots. He had a great summer, swimming a 1:49.2 at the Jr. Pan Pacs just a few weeks ago. That equates to a 1:35 in yards. That’s fast.
Reid Elliott fits exactly the same mold: 44.7 in the 100 free, 47.6 in the 100 back, and 47.9 in the 100 fly. Mike Bottom should have some fun with that pair over the next four years.
This class will continue to fill up Michigan’s depth. Redshirt freshman Jeremy Raisky was a 48.9 100 fly last year; Matt Zimmerman is a 1:38 200 freestyler; and Matt McNamara has a 56-second 100 breaststroke (and should become a very good IM’er).
Diving: Alongside their big freshman swimming classes, Michigan has brought in very good divers, and a very good diving coach in KZ Li, but so far it hasn’t paid off in NCAA qualifiers. This year, though, they may have brought in the freshman who will change all of that: Timothy Faerber from Maryland.
Faerber’s story is pretty incredible: he was born clinically dead with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. Many children with this condition are left with permanent disabilities, but Faerber instead has excelled to become one of the best junior divers in the country. He gets better as the boards go higher, with his favored event being the platform. In 2011, he was 3rd at the Junior National Diving Championships, and qualified for the Olympic Trials. Expect him to score at NCAA’s by the time he’s done at Michigan.
2012-2013 Outlook: Michigan has continued to get better-and-better as Bottom has brought in the swimmers he wants and installed the training system that he wants. This year looks like it could be a breakthrough, but there’s an “if”.
Last year, and really the year before, Michigan did their best swimming at Big Tens. Whether or not this will happen again this season, we’ll have to wait and see, but I think it’s a fair expectation that under the new qualifying rules, more teams will have this same symptom. What they’re bringing in should be a smooth replacement for what they’ve lost, and they’ll count on Bosch and Funk for quite a lot in their first year. That presence of a true sprinter is going to be great for this team, both in results and in training.
This team can expect to score in every single NCAA event, aside from maybe the 200 back, and are very balanced. Their strength is still the butterflies, where by my count they’ll have at least a dozen swimmers who have been under 49 seconds.
Michigan is a little bit thin on big names, but by season’s end their roster should be more recognizable than it is right now. The top 5-7 teams should see a lot more parity this year, and I think Michigan has every ability to finish in the top 3 at NCAA’s. If they swim 75%-80% season bests at NCAA’s, top 4 will be a certainty.