This Friday and Saturday, there is no argument. Ann Arbor is the Top Swim City in America, as the University of Michigan Swim and Dive team hosts three NCAA powerhouses in a quad meet, which also features exhibition races highlighted by post-graduate swim stars who boast titles and honors that would ‘pop’ on any swim resume.
Indiana University, the University of Louisville and the University of Texas will have a tough test when they face a strong Wolverine team in the busy and storied college town of Ann Arbor, which was named the Top Swim City in America by USA Swimming and Speedo in a study published in July.
During breaks in the collegiate contest, the blocks will stay hot with past and future Olympians, American Record Holders, former NCAA Champions and Big 10 Champions stepping up to thrill the crowd with exhibition events over Friday and Saturday.
The high-caliber competition starts at 6 p.m. EST on Friday and then again on Saturday at 10 a.m EST at the Canham Natatorium. Admission for the meet is free, and the planned fanfare will boost an atmosphere already charged by the level of competition.
In addition to giveaways, trivia and activities for kids, there will be plenty of spirit steered by the Maize and Blue’s cheer and dance teams. For fans who want to ‘rub elbows’ with the athletes, there is a meet-and-greet/autograph session with the post-graduate swim stars on Friday night and then one with the Wolverine team on Saturday.
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Collegiate Powerhouses Clash in Quad
It is early in the season, but the Big 10’s Wolverines and Hoosiers, plus the out-of-conference Cardinals (ACC) and Longhorns (Big 12) have already produced strong performances, making this collegiate clash one that will be closely watched.
If you are only as good as your last NCAA Championships finish, then these teams are good. At last year’s top college meet, the Texas (2) and Michigan (4) men battled for top spot, while Indiana’s men placed tenth, edging out eleventh-place Louisville.
The visiting women’s teams bunched up closer at the 2013-14 NCAA Championships, as the Lady Longhorns took ninth, Indiana claimed 12th and Louisville landed in the 15th spot. The Wolverine women, who finished 30th (tied with Florida State) in a field of more than 50 teams, are stretching to reach the heights of the visiting competition, but it will be a great yardstick to measure themselves against.
This meet is an embarrassment of riches with every event featuring somebody or some match-up to watch. Here’s a high-level overview of who could lead their teams to points.
The Hoosier men are used to big events this season as they hosted and defeated SEC’s Auburn Tigers 149-91 on Oct 10 in a televised event on the Big Ten Network. Indiana’s sprint contingent made waves at the meet led by sophomore and Slovenian Anze Tavcar, who has already achieved NCCA ‘B’ cuts by winning the 50-yard free and 100-yard free.
Freshman and Egyptian Ali Khalafalla, who is a back and free specialist, received Big Ten Freshman of Week honors based on his relay contributions at the same meet, when the Hoosiers knocked off Auburn in the 200-yard medley relay and 400-yard medley relay. They will face a tougher test against the Longhorns and Michigan, who always put together strong relays.
On the Indiana women’s side, NCAA Champion and Canadian Brooklynn Snodgrass, who was a Big Ten Swimmer of the Week this month, leads the Hoosier women. Snodgrass’s form looks great after winning the 200-yard backstroke at the Oct. 10. meet against Auburn by nearly five seconds with a 1:53.97, which is just short of an NCAA ‘A’ qualifying time. Snodgrass also took second in the 200-yard free to teammate and freshman Kennedy Goss, who posted a 1:48.75 to win the event. Goss also placed second in the 500-yard free. Goss and Snodgrass are a tandem that any team would want going into a pool battle.
The Longhorn men defeated Texas A&M last Friday 153-113 to win their season opener. They did it in convincing fashion too, winning six out of nine events with a one-two-three sweep. That was before the meet was capped for the Longhorn men who raced the remaining events as exhibition, giving the SEC Aggies some keep-it-close points.
With 15 men 6’4” or taller (five are between 6’6” and 6’9”), the Texas men are as imposing in stature as they are in results. Last season’s NCAA Championship runner-ups will walk on deck with targets on their backs.They will be led by seniors Clay Youngquist, Kip Darmody and Tripp Cooper. Backing them up are 20-year-old Will Licon in the backstroke, breaststroke and individual medley, freestyler sprinters Brett Ringgold and Joseph Schooling, middle distance freestyler Jonathan Roberts, breaststroker Imri Ganiel, and butterflyers Clark Smith and Jack Conger, who can also put in backstroke duty.
This will be the Lady Longhorns first race action outside of an intra-squad competition held last Friday, which ensure they are warmed up and likely itching to race. The Longhorn’s women head coach, Carol Capitani won’t let them come out flat.
Look for Madisyn Cox, who is on the U.S. roster for December’s FINA Short Course World Championships in Qatar, to show why she is the defending Big 12 Champion in the 200-yard individual medley. Keep an eye on 13-time All-American, senior backstroker Sarah Denninghoff, who transferred to Texas from Arizona and looks to return to NCAA Championship form after sitting out last season as a medical redshirt. Gretchen Jaques’s versatility will provide Texas with points wherever she is put, which could be in the breaststroke, butterfly and/or freestyle sprints. Also look for backstroker Tasija Karosas, freestyler Kelsey LeNeave, and middle distance freestyle and individual medley specialist Kaitlin Pawlowicz to deliver points too.
Upfront leading Louisville will no doubt be senior Tanja Kylliainen, who took the ACC Female Swimmer of the Week for her efforts last week. This honor was driven by the three NCAA ‘B’ cuts she notched at the SMU Class with a first place in the 200-yard individual medley (1:59.48), first in the 400-yard individual medley (4:10.89), and second in the 200-yard fly (1:57.30). Junior Kelsi Worrell will also be counted on to deliver points. She won the 100-yard free (49.12) at the SMU Classic, but put up her best results last season as a butterflyer, having placed second at last season’s NCAA Championships in the 100-yard fly (51.09) to Stanford’s Felicia Lee and then fourth in the 200-yard fly (1:53.63), which was also a school record. Look to Worrell to participate in the freestyle events, as she can deliver points in the sprints.
The Louisville men haven’t seen race action since Oct. 10, when they easily defeated the Xavier Musketeers with a number of one-two-three sweeps. Threats for the Cardinal men, who will face their first real test this season at Ann Arbor, are middle distance freestyler Trevor Carroll, backstroker and Russian Grigory Tarasevich, Nolan Tesone took in the butterfly event and Trinidadian Caryle Blondell in the short sprints.
The host Michigan men are no slouches, placing fourth overall at last year’s NCAA Championships. The hometown pressure will be big, but Michigan’s roster is full of performers.
A handful of Michigan men have already posted NCAA provisional qualifying times and have posted season best times for the Big Ten and NCAA. This includes Vinny Tafuto in the 50-yard free (20.08), Anders Nielsen in the 200-yard free (1:37.53), Richard Funk in the 100-yard breaststroke (54.18), Aaron Whitaker in the 100-yard fly (48.21) and Dylan Bosch in the 200-yard fly (1:46.88). The Michigan men also go into the weekend with the fastest times in this year’s NCAA action in the 200-yard free relay and 400-yard medley relay. There is a good chance those marks will be bested by more than one team at this meet.
As noted earlier, the Michigan women will have a tough test against their stronger visitors, but the meet will be an opportunity for them to collectively take their team performance to a higher level. Clara Smiddy, who has earned Freshman of the Week honors earlier this month, was strong in her collegiate debut against Iowa and Nebraska. She won the 100-yard back (54.40) and 200-yard back (1:55.99), notching NCAA provisional standards. Junior Marni Oldershaw can also be counted on to deliver points. Oldershaw won the 200-yard fly (2:05.30) and the 200-yard individual medley (2:05.04) earlier this month also against Iowa and Nebraska.
On Friday night there might be more stars in the Canham Natatorium than in Ann Arbor’s night sky, as a collection of post-graduate swimmers from the U.S., Canada, Portugal, Spain and Japan begin the first of two days to test their early-season form.
Headlining the post-graduate races include Wolverines alumni Connor Jaeger, Emily Brunemann, Ryan Feeley and Sean Ryan, plus Lindsay Vrooman (Hoosiers), Michael McBroom (Longhorns), and Joao De Lucca (Cardinals).
Other former alumni and notable athletes include: Michael Klueh, Kyle Whitaker, Michael Wynalda, Junya Koga, Miguel Ortiz, Hassaan Abdel Khalik, Bobby Hurley, Bronwyn Pasloski, Cody Miller, James Wells, Carlos Almeida, and Pedro Oliveira.
The swim events are broken up over two days and will be contested during the ten-minutes breaks in the collegiate action. Friday’s exhibition events include: the 100-yard back, 200-yard breaststroke, 200-yard free, and 50-yard free. Saturday’s exhibition events include the 100-yard breaststroke, the 200-yard back, the 100-yard free, and the 1000-yard free.