The University of Michigan swimming & diving programs returned to the water to resume training on Monday after the conclusion of a 14-day “athletics pause.” The pause was driven by a rise in the number of coronavirus cases both within Michigan’s athletics department, and on the campus in general, including the new more-viral B.1.1.7 strain. The pause included a moratorium on all in-person training and competition.
That gives the women’s swimming & diving teams and and the men’s diving team 15 days in the pool to finish preparations for the Big Ten Championships, and the men’s swimming team 22 days.
Michigan head coach Mike Bottom says that his team is focused on one day at a time.
“Our focus is on every single day and putting one foot in front of the other,” Bottom told SwimSwam. “We will get to Big Tens, and we will have a team. But we’re here today, training for today and being together today. I think that’s really our most important focus.”
Bottom talked about the challenges that his team has faced this season, including three different periods of pausing and challenges finding water.
Besides the challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which have faced many teams throughout the country, Bottom also pointed to the death of Michigan swimmer Ian Miskelley in September as another challenge that the team has had to overcome.
“What I’ve talked to the team about is that by being here, we’ve accomplished our goals of being a champion because of the number of difficult things we’ve had to go through this year. We had three different pauses. We were out of our own pool. We grieved over the loss of a teammate. To make it to the end of the season and to be able to perform at any level is a win. It’s really a testament to the values that this team has instituted together: team, integrity, gratitude, perseverance.”
The Michigan men enter the meet as the defending Big Ten Champions, though they graduated 559 of their 1,264 individual points from that meet. That’s more-than-double the number of graduating points by the next-closest team – Ohio State’s 235.
The Michigan women were 2nd at last year’s Big Ten Championship meet, finishing nearly 200 points behind their arch-rivals Ohio State. While Ohio State graduated the most points, they also returned the most points from the 2020 Big Ten Championships – 923, versus 766 for Michigan.
Given the frequent disruptions in training, it’s likely that the team’s top swimmers, especially those like Maggie MacNeil who have both qualifying times in place for NCAAs already, as well as serious Olympic aspirations, will train fairly-heavily through Big Tens.
The good news in the case of MacNeil is that she’s shown the ability to suit and swim fast even without any serious rest.
The 2021 Big Ten Swimming & Diving Championships schedule is below:
Updated 2021 Big Ten Conference Championship Schedule:
- Big Ten Men’s & Women’s Diving Championships – February 24-27 – Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana
- Big Ten Women’s Swimming Championships – February 23-27 – University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Big Ten Men’s Swimming Championships – March 2-6 – Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
In the university’s most recent update on athlete and coach testing, for the week during the pause from January 30-February, 5 student-athletes and 2 staff members tested positive for the coronavirus. The newest data is usually released on Friday afternoon.