We’ll be previewing the top 12 men’s and women’s programs from the 2017 NCAA Championships – stay tuned to our College Swimming Previews channel to catch all 24. Can’t get enough college swimming news? Check out the College Preview issue of SwimSwam Magazine for some inside looks at the life of a college swimmer as told by college swimmers themselves, plus full-length profiles of a few of college swimming’s biggest names, including our cover athlete, Simone Manuel.
#11 MICHIGAN WOLVERINES
Key Losses: Maddy Frost, Julia Fiks Salem
Key Additions: Miranda Tucker (Michigan transfer), Sierra Schmidt (PA – distance), Alexis Margett (CA – fly), Miranda Tucker (IU transfer), Taylor Garcia (Arizona transfer), Daria Pyshnenko (IL – sprinter), Kate Krolikowski (CA – free/IM), Claire Maiocco (FL – fly)
We’ve tightened up our criteria from last year, where our first stab at a letter grading system got hit by a little bit of classic grade inflation. Again, bear in mind that all of these grades are projections more than 6 months out – and as none of us has a working crystal ball, these projections are very subjective and very likely to change over the course of the season. Disagreeing with specific grades is completely acceptable; furiously lashing out at a writer, commenter or specific athlete is not.
- A = projected to score significant (10+) NCAA points per event
- B = projected to score some (3-10) NCAA points per event
- C = projected on the bubble to score likely only a few (1-2) or no NCAA points per event
- D = projected to score no NCAA points
The Michigan women finished 11th at NCAAs last year as opposed to 10th in 2016, but they still scored 9 more points. The Wolverines flexed their mid-distance/distance freestyle muscles, finishing 3rd at NCAAs in the 800 free relay while they made some serious noise in the 200, 500, and 1650 free. Rose Bi and G Ryan both scored in the 500 free A final and grabbed some points in the mile, while Gabby Deloof and Siobhan Haughey made A final appearances in the 200 free. Haughey also scored in the 200 IM B final and 100 free B final, while Clara Smiddy finished in the A final of the 200 back and Vanessa Krause scored in both butterflies.
The Michigan women thundered to the 2017 Big Ten crown, their second-straight, and have quickly established themselves as the team to beat in the conference. Without any NCAA level graduations, and with our 2nd-ranked class incoming, Michigan will be hard-pressed NOT to vault up at least a couple spots at the 2018 NCAA Championships.
Sprint Free: A-
The 200 free will be included here for Michigan, where G. Deloof and Haughey will return in hopes of making that A final again. Freshman Kate Krolikowski brings in a 1:45.9, and she adds some potential to that mid-distance group right away. Additionally, Becca Postoll and G Ryan return after scoring in the 200 free A final last year at Big Tens– actually, the Wolverines made up 4 of the 8 A finalists in this race.
As for the sprints, the Wolverine’s 200 free relay was their weakest of the five last year. Still, Deloof sisters Gabby and Catie are both strong in the 50 and 100, laying some foundation with Haughey, who is stellar in the 100 and 200. Newcomer Daria Pyshnenko or transfer Taylor Garcia, who come in with 22.3/22.6, respectively, could pop some 22-low or even 21-high splits, which would likely make that relay NCAA scoring-worthy. Those new additions will also strengthen the overall depth of the sprint group in Ann Arbor.
Haughey is a sure-fire scorer in the 100 and 200 and G. Deloof in the 200, and if there’s some development from freshmen such as Krolikowski or Pyshnenko, or even Garcia (who’s primarily a backstroker), Michigan’s sprint group will be much stronger than last year.
Distance Free: A+
Even with the 200 free in the sprint section for this team, the distance frees are going to be Michigan’s bread and butter next season.
They already have G Ryan and Rose Bi, two proven NCAA scorers. Ryan and Bi will likely make another A final appearance in the 500 free, and though they both added significant time in the mile at NCAAs, their best times suggest that they should both be able to make it top 8 next season.
Where Ryan and Bi might falter, though, Sierra Schmidt surges. The freshman is the best miler in the incoming class, and she should have no problem breaking 16 minutes and potentially scoring top 8 in that event. She’s also been fast enough to score in the 500 free B final (4:38.4), making the Michigan distance duo a formidable distance trio.
Siobhan Haughey has the 200 IM locked down for Michigan, having scored in the B final at NCAAs last year with a 1:55.09, a time that would’ve actually made the A final had she done it in prelims. She looked to have won the Big Ten crown in this race, though she was called for a DQ for not finishing on her back on her back-to-breast turn.
Haughey is a reliable scorer, though, and with her improvements at the World Champs this summer in LCM, she’s setting herself up for an even bigger season this year.
Clara Smiddy very nearly scored in the 200 IM at NCAAs last year, and freshman Krolikowski brings in intriguing times of 2:00/4:15 in the IMs. Additionally, Miranda Tucker was 1:55.94 at Big Tens in 2016, and she’s right with Smiddy as a cusp scorer in that event.
That said, Haughey is their only surefire contributor in this event for the time being, and there isn’t much of a 400 IM base in Ann Arbor, either.
Vanessa Krause‘s freshman year improvements in the 100 and 200 fly are very exciting for the Wolverines, who have lacked a strong butterfly presence of late until Krause got to campus. She improved from HS bests of 53.49/1:58.07 to a significantly better 51.71/1:54.60 combo. She’s established herself as their go-to butterflier, and she will bring in points in at least the 200 fly, if not both fly’s, at NCAAs.
Perhaps freshman Alexis Margett will follow a similar curve to Krause, which would be huge, considering that Margett comes in with times of 52.5/1:57.3, faster than Krause was at the same time last year. Like Krause, Margett looks to be a threat in both the 100 and the 200, but her 100 speed suggests that she might stick with sprint fly and look to take the 200 medley spot. She was 23.77 swimming fly at the CIF State Champs on Glendora’s medley relay, just .21 off of Krause’s time in the 200 medley prelims last season at NCAAs.
Meanwhile, Astrid Swensen put up a 1:55.97 at NCAAs, less than a half second off of scoring in the B final. Her, along with incoming freshman Claire Maiocco (53.8 in the 100), add depth to a fly group that really didn’t exist to nearly the same capacity just a year or two ago, and certainly not before that.
Clara Smiddy will be big here, coming back from a 6th place finish in the 200 back at NCAAs. She’s also been 51.7 in the 100, and while that, along with her 200 back lifetime bests, are from four years ago, she’s been within tenths of PRs in both events since coming to Michigan.
Taylor Garcia, a transfer from Arizona, put down a lifetime best 51.87 leading off the Wildcats’ 400 medley relay this year at NCAAs. She’s solid in the 200 (1:55.4), but she’s much more of a sprint backstroker. Depending on how she responds to the new training regime at Michigan, Garcia could slot in on both medley relays immediately. Garcia is faster in the 50 (24.15 to 24.38), and she might drop the 200 back altogether to focus on sprint free and backstroke in her two remaining years in college.
Anyhow, Smiddy should bring in big points in the 200, and her and Garcia are on the cusp of scoring in the 100– but they could both be just off. Backstroke has gotten ridiculously fast at the NCAA level, and a 51-high might not cut it at this point to score in the B final.
Gabby Deloof nearly scored in the 200 back at NCAAs last year, and both her and her sister Catie have bests of 52.9 in the 100. Like in the fly, there’s an expected scorer up top, and then a few others who are on the brink of NCAA scoring.
Miranda Tucker is a colossal boost to the breaststroke group, and she is a proven NCAA scoring talent. With best times of 58.10 and 2:06.27 from 2016 (not having tapered for a SCY meet in 2017), she may well finish 2nd behind Lilly King in both breaststrokes at NCAAs.
Emily Kopas has been Michigan’s go-to breaststroker since her freshman year, and with bests of 59.54 and 2:07.88, she is fast enough to score in both at NCAAs. She faltered a bit at NCAAs last season and wound up 17th in the 200 and 22nd in the 100, but that sting could serve as motivation to get her on her game at NCAAs this season.
While not NCAA level scorers, a trio of breaststrokers behind Tucker and Kopas make for a dominant breast group at the conference level. Carolyn McCann went 1:00.33 to win the 100 breast Big Ten B final last season, while Samantha Yeo (1:01.18) and Jamie Yeung (1:01.56) add even more depth. It’s a similar story in the 200, with McCann at 2:11 and Yeo/Yeung right there at 2:12.
Michigan is a team that only continues to rise, and the incoming class is probably their best. Ever.
Team leaders Haughey, G. Deloof, Tucker and Krause are all coming off of hot summers in long course and Michigan had Tucker, Haughey and incoming freshman Schmidt competing at World University Games last week.
At face value, Michigan already looks better than last year. If the freshmen and transfers get into their groove and develop further, Michigan will easily vault a few spots at NCAAs this year and could land as high as sixth if all comes together.