BigTen Senior Spotlight: Marni Oldershaw of the University of Michigan

by Varun Shivakumar 1

February 15th, 2016 Big Ten, College

With under 48 hours left until the 2016 Big Ten Championships kick off, the host of this year’s event, the University of Michigan, will be looking forward to putting on a show in front of a home crowd. Coming off four consecutive years where the team improved their placing at the Conference meet (2012 – 8th, 2013 – 6th, 2014 – 5th, 2015 – 3rd), a senior-heavy Wolverine squad may have the most momentum to work with amongst all participating teams, and Marni Oldershaw out of Oakville, Ontario may prove to be one of the biggest catalysts in the host team’s push this week.

An extremely accomplished swimmer in the club swimming world, Oldershaw already had a taste of international swimming experience before joining the Wolverines for her freshman year. In 2010, she would compete in the 2010 Junior Pan Pacific Championships contested in Maui, Hawaii, securing finishes of 18th in the 100 back (1:04.80), 12th in the 400 IM (4:54.70), and 11th in the 200 IM (2:18.47). The very next summer, she would also compete in the 2011 Junior World Championships, taking 14th in the 200 IM (2:19.44) and 9th in the 400 IM (4:52.61).

On top of her international accomplishments, Oldershaw was a very successful swimmer in the Canadian age group scene as well. She held seven National Age Group records in the 13-14 age group, and to this day, her name remains in the record books for her part on Oakville Aquatic Club’s record-setting 4×100 medley relay (4:23.12) from 2009. Incredibly, she also holds 25 team records as a member of OAC across all the different age groups represented. Finally, at the 2012 Canadian Olympic Trials, she recorded three top-10 finishes, with placings of 6th in the 200 IM (2:17.53), 9th in the 400 IM (4:46.49), and 9th in the 200 back (2:13.48).

As a freshman with the Wolverines, Marni demonstrated her utility admirably by putting on an impressive show during her first Championship Season. A true symbol of versatility, she would secure finishes of 6th in the 200 IM (1:59.10, 1:58.34 in prelims), 4th in the 400 IM (4:10.98, lifetime best), and 10th in the 200 fly (1:59.49, lifetime best) at the 2012 Big Ten Championships. Additionally, she would also provide the second leg on Michigan’s 800 free relay (7:14.49) that would take 7th overall. Just one month later, Oldershaw would compete at the NCAA Championships thanks to her individual performances from the Conference meet, recording finishes of 22nd in the 200 IM (1:58.13), 20th in the 400 IM (4:11.31), and 46th in the 200 fly (2:00.12). Notably, her swim in the 200 IM at the NCAA Championships was a lifetime best in the process.

In long course action, Oldershaw would receive the opportunity to compete at the 2013 World University Games for Canada in the 400 IM. With that race being her only event in Kazan, she would give it her all en route to setting a new school long course record with a personal best effort of 4:44.47, good for fifth overall.

Coming off a sensational beginning to her NCAA career, Oldershaw would only get better as a sophomore with the Wolverines. At her second stint at the Conference Championships, she would become a scoring machine for UofM, placing 2nd in the 200 IM (1:57.11), 2nd in the 400 IM (4:08.50), and 14th in the 200 fly (2:00.14). Both of her IM swims would rank 2nd on Michigan’s all-time performances list. Additionally, she would swim a leg on Michigan’s 800 free relay (7:11.34, 7th) once again.

Once again, Oldershaw would get invited to compete at the NCAA Championships, and this time, she would save her best for March. Chopping nearly a full second off her time from Big Tens, Marni would become an All-American for the first time in her career with her 8th place finish in the 200 IM (1:56.88, 1:56.18 in prelims). Furthermore, she would also take 32nd in the 400 IM (4:13.35), and 47th in the 200 fly (1:59.43).

In the summer after her junior year, Oldershaw would compete in two international events, the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships. In Glasgow, Marni recorded finishes of 10th in the 200 IM (2:15.66) and 6th in the 400 IM (4:46.26). At the Pan Pacific Championships, she would compete in the same events and take 17th in the 200 IM (2:15.87) and 16th in the 400 IM (4:49.02).

Returning for her junior campaign with Michigan, Oldershaw would not qualify for the NCAA Championships, but she still put up a solid showing for the Wolverines at the Big Ten Championships.  Switching up her schedule slightly, she would take 3rd in the 200 IM (1:58.14), 6th in the 400 IM (4:12.95, 4:12.72 in prelims), and 15th in the 200 breast (2:14.41, 2:13.97 in prelims).

With an extraordinary track record both as an NCAA athlete and as an international swimmer, Marni Oldershaw has been one of the most important factors in the Wolverines’ ascent in the Big Ten over the last three years. With a home crowd roaring and a large sum of points on the line, it should be expected that the senior will thrive as she always has on the big stage, and a return to the NCAA Championships is very much within her reach. Look for Oldershaw to be a force to reckon with as she races in Canham Natatorium one last time this week.

Best Times (SCY/LCM):
100 Back: 56.61/1:03.16
200 Back: 1:58.10/2:13.48
200 Fly: 1:59.31/2:17.33
100 Breast: 1:03.49/2:34.67
200 Breast: 2:13.97/8:42.98
200 IM: 1:56.18/2:13.72
40 IM: 4:08.50/4:44.47*

*Denotes school record

School Major/Degree:  Psychology
Favorite Event:  200IM
Favorite Hobby:  Cheese Enthusiast
Favorite Movie:  Troy
Person You’d Like to Meet Growing Up:  Wayne Gretzky
Favorite Food/ Pre-Race Meal: Pasta the night before

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

I started swimming when I was 8. I was in swimming lessons and they told me I was too competitive. I was still in canoe/kayak, soccer, gymnastics, and volleyball, so by age 13 I had to make the decision to commit full time to swimming.

What is your favorite collegiate swimming memory and why? 

I have two. The first was Big Tens 2014, the 400IM. My training partner, Courtney Beidler, and I had been having great seasons and knew that either one of us was capable of winning the 400IM. We went 1-2, with Courtney winning. After the race next thing I knew I was running across the pool deck to hug Courtney. Singing ‘The Victors’ at the top of the podium was an unforgettable moment.

The second was at NCAAs 2014. I had never come top 16 at NC’s before and was itching to score points for Michigan. I had the race of my life in the 200IM and took off a whole second from my lifetime best. I was in the final heat so the results showed up right away and I was shocked to find myself 7th. I was genuinely surprised at my time, which I hadn’t experienced in a long time.

Can you describe what it was like to transition from swimming in Canada to swimming in the NCAA for the Wolverines? Was it particularly difficult for you, or did you find the process to be rather smooth?

Training wise it was very smooth. At Oakville Aquatic Club we had a similar schedule and intensity of training that helped prepare me for Michigan. Like any university student-athlete, there was a lot to adjust to in regards to school and living away from home. There was a lot to get used to such as swimming on a large team of girls, and of course short course yards. But the older girls on the team were great at breaking in all the freshmen.

Like several other swimmers in the Big Ten, you have some extensive international experience, including appearances at the 2013 World University Games, 2014 Commonwealth Games, and 2014 Pan Pacific Championships. Do you feel like your swims at these various international competitions have helped you better succeed in a collegiate environment? Or do you feel like the two are completely different?

The two are definitely hard to compare. Short course yards are very different from long course meters. The international meets I have competed in have helped me mature as an athlete. They also make me appreciate my team as I found it is easy to feel like you are on your own at international meets where swimmers are competing for medals, titles, and sponsorships. In the NCAA, swimmers are competing for their schools and teammates.

The Wolverines have 9 seniors between the swimming and diving teams on their roster for the 2015-2016 season. Whereas some other teams in the Big Ten may have considerable youth amongst their ranks, do you feel like having a big senior class has had a measurable impact in the weeks leading up to Big Tens?

It has been wonderful to have such a big and strong class all four years. Bo Schembechler, a famous Michigan football coach, said “Those who stay will be champions” and that has rung true to our class this season. We came into a new coaching staff starting our freshman year with the combining of the men and women’s teams, and Mike Bottom becoming our coach. Our class bonded very quickly at the beginning. Having a big senior class full of great leadership has been great for our team chemistry this year and we are very excited to be hosting our final Big Tens. Having a senior class with a lot of experience is a great asset, but our younger classes are full of talent and enthusiasm, which balance out the team.

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

Following the collegiate season I will be competing at Canadian Olympic Trials in April. I will be staying in Ann Arbor through till December to work on a current research project before heading back to Canada to pursue a degree in Clinical Psychology.

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

A lot of pride. We take pride in how much this team has grown in the past few years. We take pride in our program and all the a-maize-ing hard work we have put in this season. And as the host of Big Tens, we take pride in protecting our house.

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Fonda Loft

I worked with Marni’s parents at White Oaks Secondary School in Oakville, Ontario and have known Marni since she was a little girl. Aside from all of the wonderful accolades for her accomplishments, what needs to be said is that she is a very humble, grounded young woman. In competitive sports, that is difficult to maintain, but Marni has done this well. We all will be cheering for her as she represents the Wolverines in this year’s competition and as she attends the Olympic trials.

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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