Big Ten Senior Spotlight: Justin Glanda of the University of Michigan

The University of Michigan have dominated the Big Ten scene for a few years in a row now, and their middle distance freestyle tradition has been a key component of the program’s success both within the conference and on the national scene for decades. Fresh off a historic season in 2014, the Wolverines will turn to captain Justin Glanda to continue this tradition and to lead the men from Ann Arbor tomorrow when action kicks off in Iowa City.

A Rochester Hills, Michigan native, Glanda entered his freshman season at Michigan as a rapidly rising sprint and middle-distance freestyler on the club scene. A product of the Oakland Live Y’ers Swim Team program, the same club that produced Olympic gold-medalist and multiple-time NCAA Champion Peter Vanderkaay, Glanda arrived in Ann Arbor with a large upside, and the size and stature conducive to becoming an immediate threat at the conference and national level.

The most remarkable aspect of Glanda’s career is the sheer amount of improvement he made year-by-year as a member of the Wolverines. As a freshman, Glanda swam to career best times in both of his individuals, with finishes of 17th in the 200 free (1:37.30) and 39th in the 100 free (44.98). Though those time drops were respectable in their own right, it was only a preview of what the then-19-year-old had in store for the remaining three years of his tenure.

Following a successful summer season that saw him swim to multiple Olympic Trial cuts, Glanda really exploded into form during the 2012-13 season. He scored in all of his individual events at the 2013 Big Ten Championships, securing finishes of 10th in the 100 free (43.70, 43.61 in prelims), 4th in the 200 free (1:34.43), and 14th in the 500 free (4:22.69, 4:20.42 in prelims). Notably, Glanda was part of the absolute stranglehold that the University of Michigan had atop the podium in the 200 free that year, as the school led a 1-2-3-4 sweep in this event.

With his exceptional performance in the 200 free, Glanda was given an opportunity to compete at the 2013 NCAA Championships. Individually, he would take 23rd in the 200 free (1:35.15) and 40th in the 100 free (44.07), but most importantly, the experience he gained from his first NCAA championships proved to be instrumental towards his progression in the second-half of his collegiate career.

Forwarding to his junior season with the Wolverines, Glanda continued to excel at the conference level, swimming to finishes of 8th in the 500 free (4:21.65, 4:18.89 in prelims), 2nd in the 200 free (1:33.98, 2nd), and 13th in the 100 free (43.81, 43.42 in prelims). Notably, his prelim swims in the 500 free and the 100 free were both career bests, while his 200 free finals performance smashed his previous best from the preceding year.

It wasn’t until his junior year that Glanda first saw action on the relays at the conference championships, and he really made it count. As the third leg of Michigan’s 800 free relay, he swam a 1:33.26 third leg to help the Wolverines establish a new Big Ten, NCAA, and US Open record with a 6:09.85. The first team to ever break 6:10, the Wolverines won this event by nearly 10 full seconds at the 2014 Big Ten Championships, and Glanda’s split (1:33.26) was the third fastest split in the entire event. He also provided the third leg of Michigan’s meet-record-setting 400 free relay that won in a 2:51.07.

The following month, Glanda took 19th in the 200 free (1:34.63) and 23rd in the 500 yard free (4:18.46) at the NCAA Championships. His performance in the 500 free was a new career best, and fifth-best amongst Wolverines at the meet. He would also provide a leg on the Wolverines’ 800 free relay (6:16.37, 4th).

Outside of the pool, Glanda has amassed several academic accolades during his collegiate career. He is a two-time Big Ten Distinguished scholar, a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, two-time CSCAA Scholar-American, and a three-time University of Michigan Academic-Achievement Award winner.

With just one day remaining until the 2015 Big Ten Championships, this year’s iteration of the championships is looking like it may be Michigan’s to lose once again. The team enters the meet as the 5th ranked team in the country (according to CSCAA rankings), and given how fast the program usually is in February and March, we should have every reason to expect the Wolverines to be just as good this time around. With senior captain Justin Glanda competing in his final championship season for the Maize and Blue, the team can rest assured knowing that they have an exceptional leader in both the relays and individuals ready to go out with a definitive bang.

Best Times (SCY/LCM):
50 Free: 20.78/23.98
100 Free: 43.42/50.12
200 Free: 1:33.98/1:49.56
500 Free/400 Free 4:18.46/3:58.37
100 Fly: 49.47/56.51
800 Free Relay: 6:09.85*

*Denotes school, Big Ten, US Open, and NCAA record

School Major/Degree: Bachelor of Business Administration
Favorite Event: 200 Freestyle; Relays
Favorite Hobby: “Scootering” & hikes in the Arb at U of M
Favorite Movie: The Shawshank Redemption
Person You’d Like to Meet Growing Up: Eminem
Favorite Food/ Pre-Race Meal: Chicken Parmesan & Pasta

At what age did you become involved with swimming? How did you get into it?

I started out just taking lessons at summer club called Twin Lakes when I was eight years old. The next year I joined my “year-round” club team called OLY Swimming, and I was there all through high school. 

What is your favorite collegiate swimming memory and why? 

This one is easy. My favorite college memory is definitely being on deck with the boys after we won the 2013 NCAA Title in Indianapolis.  Seeing our team’s entire year of work come together in one competition was the most special and memorable moment in my career. In addition, we had the largest cheering section at the meet with alumni, parents, and fans sharing in the celebration.  As we have moved on from that Title, I appreciate more and more just how perfect that season was, and I will always hold on to those feelings I experienced that final night in Indy.

Last year, at the Big Ten Championships, you contributed the third leg to a historic 800 freestyle relay that would ultimately establish a new NCAA and US Open Record. Can you talk a little about what that experience was like? Was the record something you and your teammates had your eyes on all season?

Throughout the season, I think the record was something we all thought about often.  Then, to do it at home with the whole team present, it made the entire experience truly complete. Personally, it was an idea that went through my head every time we lined up for a race pace set, but honestly we did not even know who was actually going to be on the relay until a few days before; our group was just that deep, but we were all in it together holding each other accountable. 

I think that breaking the record itself speaks to the intense training of our middle-distance & distance groups overall.  After members of our sprint group had just broken the NCAA record in the 200 Medley Relay the previous year, it also really displays the versatility of our whole team.

The University of Michigan has always been renowned for its phenomenal depth in the middle distance and distance freestyle events, and last year’s conference meet proved to be no different with 4 Wolverines placing in the A final of the 200 free and an astounding 6 more placing in the A final of the 500 free. Can you shed some light on what it is like to train in such a highly talented and competitive group day in and day out? 

Like I talked about in the previous question, the depth of our middle-distance and distance groups is so strong, and that has always been present throughout Michigan’s long history. Honestly, I attribute my ability to progress in this sport to the opportunity to train in such a competitive environment.  I came in and found myself training alongside of numerous Olympians and NCAA Champions, and I realized that I just had to put my head down and race these guys in order to improve.  The best aspect about it is that there is always someone to race – always someone having a great workout – and that keeps everyone in the pool focused and “on their game” so to speak.

Outside of the pool, you have been instrumental in the launching of Blue Connect, an alumni-undergraduate mentorship program that has helped many of your teammates connect with graduates who have enjoyed success in their professional fields. Can you talk a little about this program, and why it is important to have such a program in a collegiate environment? 

The main goal of the program in place on our team is to connect members of our team’s very large alumni base with the current team while allowing the current members of our team to hear from their experiences while at Michigan.  On top of that, it serves different purposes depending on the year of the mentee.

For the younger boys, I believe that talking with alums who have been through the team before can help them transition into college life, gain confidence, and figure out what they want to do academically.  For the older guys, I believe the initiative can help them get an idea of what options are available for them after college and swimming as well as how they should go about pursuing those options.  So far, I feel that the program has been progressing really well overall especially since it is only in its first year.

Do you have any plans/commitments following the completion of your collegiate career?

Presently, as long as I am enjoying the sport and progressing in my training and racing, I see no reason to stop yet. With Olympic Trials only one year away, as of right now, I intend on continuing to train while attending graduate school here at Michigan. I am currently making a decision between pursuing a Masters degree in Public Health, Accounting, or Social Work. Long term, I hope to work in the field of healthcare and/or hospital administration.

What should we look forward to from Michigan as a whole at this year’s Big Ten Championships?

The team this year is very different than our team last year.  We have a lot of young talent as well as lot of guys stepping up to fill new roles after graduating such a large senior class last season. Our boys are constantly developing, and I think we are most excited about the “big” time drops coming at what will be a very competitive Big Ten Meet.

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About Varun Shivakumar

Varun Shivakumar hails from Hoffman Estates, IL and swam competitively for 16 years. He swam both backstroke events at Northwestern University, and ranks fifth in the school’s All-time performances list in the 200 yard backstroke. Representing NASA Wildcat Aquatics, he also competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials in Omaha, NE …

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