We’ll be previewing the top 12 men’s and women’s programs for the 2018-2018 season – 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 more in-depth college swimming coverage, including a bird’s-eye view of the flood of coaching changes and our ever-popular rankings of the top 50 individual swimmers in college swimming.
#3 Michigan Wolverines
Key Losses: Gabby DeLoof (15 NCAA points; 4 NCAA relays); G Ryan (24 NCAA points); Clara Smiddy (14 NCAA points; 1 NCAA relay)
Key Additions: Victoria Kwan (CAN – IM/FL); Maggie MacNeil (CAN – FL); Katie Minnich (MI – BK); Caroline Sisson (MI – BR)
As the NCAA finish order is determined by points, we base our grading scale on projected NCAA points. Versatility and high ceilings are nice, but they don’t win you NCAA titles unless they bring points with them. 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
We’ll grade each event discipline: sprint free (which we define to include all the relay-distance freestyle events, so 50, 100 and 200 plus the 200, 400 and 800 free relays), distance free, IM, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly.
2017-2018 Look Back
The Michigan women had a breakthrough season last year, finishing 4th at the 2018 NCAA Championships – their highest finish in 22 years. Additionally, they won their 3rd consecutive Big Ten Championship – defeating 2nd place Indiana by 235 points – and went undefeated in dual meet action (10-0). Head coach Mike Bottom was also named the 2017-18 Big Ten Women’s Swimming & Diving Coach of the Year. At NCAA’s, 3 of their 5 relays finished in the top 8 – led by a 2nd place finish in the 800 freestyle relay. Individually, they were led by stars G Ryan, Siobhan Haughey, Miranda Tucker, Clara Smiddy, and Vanessa Krause – who all made A-final appearances at NCAA’s.
Sprint Free: A
While the Michigan women didn’t have anybody score – or even place top 40 – in the 5o free at NCAA’s last year, they still managed to pull off a 6th place finish in the 200 free relay thanks to big splits from Haughey (21.74) and Daria Pyshnenko (21.83). Not only do the Wolverines return the 2 aforementioned swimmers, but they also return their fastest flat start swimmer from last season in Catie DeLoof (22.16, Big 10’s). Other returners like Krause (22.41) and Taylor Garcia (22.88) will be able to step up with the absence of G. DeLoof (21.73 split, NCAA 200 F.R.).
The good news for the Wolverines is that they get better as the distance goes up. The senior Haughey is returning as the 4th place finisher in the 100 free at NCAAs last year (46.91). Like their 200 free relay, the 5th place 400 free relay from NCAA’s is only losing G. DeLoof (47.91 leadoff). In her absence, a swimmer like freshman Maggie MacNeil has an opportunity to step up as her lifetime best in the LCM 100 free of 56.55 converts to a 49.5. If they can get someone like that, or even Becca Postoll or Claire Maiocco, to rise to the occasion and put down a 48-mid/low split then they are certainly looking at A-final points.
The 200 free is their bread and butter. They finished 2nd in the 800 free relay at NCAA’s (6:50.03) – only behind a dominant Stanford team featuring Katie Ledecky. Additionally, the Wolverines are returning the 2nd place finisher in the individual 200 free in Haughey (1:40.69) and the 11th place finisher in C. DeLoof (1:44.33). Had C. DeLoof gone her season best of 1:43.32 at NCAAs, she would have qualified 4th for the A-final. Also – Rose Bi, who did not swim this event at NCAAs, has a 1:44.15 to her name that would have scored if she did. Losing G. DeLoof stings a little bit, especially for relay purposes, but a swimmer like Postoll (lifetime best 1:45.44) should plug in nicely.
Distance Free: B+
Michigan returns a solid distance group despite the loss of G Ryan, who made the top eight in both distance events. In her first year in Ann Arbor, Sierra Schmidt made B-finals in both the 500 and 1650. Her long course prowess plus relative success in her first college season suggests that she’s a threat to make the top eight in both events at some point down the road.
Like, Schmidt, Rose Bi also scored in both distance events, taking 13th in the 500 and 15th in the 1650. She finished 6th in the 500 in 2017, and she actually won the Big Ten title this year with a 4:35.09, which would’ve put her 4th at NCAAs had she made it to the A-final and duplicated that time.
Postoll also returns to the Wolverines’ distance crew after finishing 36th in the 500 last year.
Last season, Haughey was the Big Ten champion in the 200 IM. She just missed the A-final at NCAAs, settling for a win in the B-final, but her time of 1:53.59 would’ve put her right in the middle of the A-final, and she stands a decent chance of getting there next year.
They have some IM scoring depth at the conference level, thanks to swimmers like Bi, Tucker and Emma Cleason, but none of those conference scorers swam IM at NCAAs.
Freshman Victoria Kwan should help here after making the A-final in both IM event at this summer’s Junior Pan Pacific Championships, where she represented Canada.
Vanessa Krause did it all for Michigan last year, swimming on both medley relays and finishing 8th in the 200 fly. She made the 100 fly B-final as a freshman, and her medley relay splits suggest should still be right in the mix despite finishing 34th in prelims this past year.
Canadian Maggie MacNeil is poised to make an immediate impact; she won the 100 fly at this summer’s Junior Pac Pacs, setting a new meet record with a 58.38. She and Krause should complement each other nicely, with MacNeil focusing more on the 100 and Krause on the 200. MacNeil’s fellow Canadian Kwan could also provide some depth.
The Wolverines take a hit here with the loss of Smiddy, who led off the 400 medley relay in finals and finished 5th in 200 back. Garcia swam prelims on both medley relays, providing decent splits, and with a season best time of 52.45, she’ll be the team’s fastest returner in the 100 back. She also swam the 200 back at NCAAs, going 1:54.71.
Jacqueline Schafer‘s 1:53.79 is the top returning time in the longer backstroke, while Becca Postoll posted a 1:57.23 at NCAAs.
There is backstroke depth coming in this season, including Katie Minnich (53/1:56) and transfer Chloe Hicks, who comes from Virginia Tech with bests of 53.1/1:53.6. South African Mariella Venter (28.8/1:01.7/2:13.5 in long course) committed, but does not currently appear on Michigan’s roster; it is possible she could join the team at mid-season.
Miranda Tucker made an immediate impact for the Wolverines after sitting a year following her transfer from Indiana. She made A-finals in both breaststrokes, including a 2nd-place finish behind former teammate Lilly King in the 100, and a 4th-place finish in the 200. She’s the only returner who swam in the breaststroke events at NCAAs, but she’s pretty well locked in for over 30 points, so she earns the team an A by herself.
As redshirt junior, Michigan still has two years to find Tucker’s replacement, and Caroline Sisson has the fastest 100 breast time of any incoming freshmen, with a best time of 1:01.97.
Michigan appears to be a very good place heading into this season, despite the losses at the top. They’re strong across the freestyle spectrum, and could even score more individual points there than they did last year. Thanks to Tucker, breaststroke is a strength rather than the weakness that even many top-notch teams have. Their fly group should get better this year, and the other three strokes are strong enough that they don’t have to have a stellar backstroke group. Add in a diver or two who can score at NCAAs, and you’ve got the recipe for an incredibly strong team. We’ll toss in the usual caveat about how Stanford and Cal are still juggernauts , but Michigan stands a very good chance of being at the top of the “not Stanford or Cal” sub-division.