ANN ARBOR, MI., Feb. 1. MEMO to USC's defending NCAA 1650 free champ Erik Vendt:
Better not look, because there's a Wolverine gaining on you real quick!
Coach Jon Urbancek's No. 4-ranked Michigan team closed out its season in impressive fashion here this afternoon with an old-fashioned 161-114 whupping of arch-rival Ohio State at the maize and blue's Canham Natatorium.
Michigan, with victories over Texas and Florida this season, improves to 8-2 and 5-0 in the Big 10. Ohio State is now 7-2, 1-2 in the conference.
While it was Senior Day in Ann Arbor, it was rookie distance-specialist Peter Vanderkaay who stole the spotlight with his stirring 14:56.66 1650 victory. His time, a pr by 30 seconds, boosts him into No. 2 nationally behind Vendt's 14:42.97, swum at the Longhorn Invitational in Texas the first Saturday in December.
An unheralded freshman from Rochester Adams High in Rochester, Mich., Vanderkaay has been a mainstay for the Wolverines throughout the season. He was one of the team's few bright spots during their Bay Area swing in January, winning the 500-1000 frees against both Cal and Stanford (where Michigan suffered its only losses).
Vanderkaay's time is an automatic NCAA cut. He's the first Wolverine to earn an "A" qualifying mark this season.
"This was what we call a rehearsal meet. We swam all the events that we will be swimming at the Big Ten Championships. This was a meet for seeding purposes and I think we did well today," Urbancek said.
"Peter Vanderkaay posted the best swim of the day for us. His time is now the second-fastest in the nation this year and a great confidence-builder for him too. Also this was a big day for our seniors. It was the last time that they will have a dual meet here in Canham and we will surely miss all of them."
Urbancek's program has developed the last two American/NCAA record-holders in the 1650 free, Tom Dolan and Chris Thompson, with the latter's 14:26.62 from NCAAs at College Station two years ago the current record. Thompson was also bronze medalist at Sydney in the 1500 free, where he set the current American-record.
The victory was the 96th Big 10 win in Urbancek's 21-year-career at his alma mater, where he took over from legendary Gus Stager. He had previously been head man at Cal. State Long Beach in Southern California. His overall conference mark is 96-4, a pretty snazzy .960 percentage. His resume also includes the 1995 NCAA Championship with Dolan, sprinter Gustavo Borges (only man to win NCAA 100 free four years' running) & Co.
Seniors Jeff Hopwood (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto HS) and Garrett Mangieri (Closter, N.J./Mercersburg Academy, Pa.) each posted individual event victories, while Justin Drake (Phoenix, Ariz./Arcadia HS), Josh Hack (Chelsea, Mich./Chelsea HS) and Ryan Earhart (Cincinnati, Ohio/St. Xavier HS) earned runner-up finishes.
Vanderkaay became the first Wolverine this season to earn an NCAA automatic qualifying time, in the 1,650 freestyle.
Vanderkaay went out quickly and continued his early pace, lapping a pair of Buckeyes near the 500 yard mark in the race. His pace was so quick that his swim cap could not keep up, as it eventually popped off his head during lap 60 of 66.
Mangieri's pair of individual victories came in the 200 and 100-yard freestyles. Mangieri earned the 100-yard title with his 45.43 and won the 200 free in an NCAA consideration time of 1:39.02.
Hopwood posted a pair of fastest times in each of the two breaststroke events. However, because the Wolverines already had the victory in hand, he exhibitioned the 200 breast. The co-captain claimed the 100 yard victory with a season-best 56.30, while Hack followed him into the wall with a time of 57.73. In the 200 Hopwood clocked in at 2:02.14, nearly four seconds better than Ohio State's event-winner Robert Kauscher (2:06.13).
In the last event of the day, the 800-yard freestyle relay, Urbanchek pitted a team of upperclassmen against a team of freshmen. Making up the team of upperclassmen were junior Dan Ketchum (Cincinnati, Ohio/Sycamore HS), Mangieri, sophomore Brendon Neligan (Briarwood, N.Y./Archbishop Molloy HS) and senior Tony Kurth (Toledo, Ohio/St. Francis de Sales HS). The four freshmen were Davis Tarwater (Knoxville, Tenn./Webb School), Chris DeJong (Holland, Mich./Holland HS), Tyler DeBerry (Tucson, Ariz./Sabino HS) and Vanderkaay.
Ketchum, NCAA runner-up in the 200 free last season, was named Michigan's male Athlete of the Year for 2001-02. Tarwater is a versatile swimmer who can do everything from the 100 fly to the 500 free with aplomb; DeBerry will make his impact felt at the national level before too long and Nelligan — a New York native — was fourth last year at NCAAs in the mile (pr 14:52.11, just .21 out of third.) DeJong is Michigan's backstroke specialist and won both dorsal events (49.43-1:48.61).
Ketchum gave the upperclassmen a 1.56 second lead as he touched the wall to send Mangieri into the water. After the second 200 yards the upperclassmen only had a 0.78 second advantage. DeBerry brought the freshmen within 0.21 seconds as he made his move during the final 50 yards of his leg. Vanderkaay and Kurth battled during the first 50 yards of their race, but the freshmen pulled away over the next 150 and defeated their elders 6:36.86 to 6:42.06.
Wolverine junior Jason Coben (Newtown Square, Pa./
Marple Newtown HS) again earned victories on the one- and three-meter springboards in the Dick Kimball Diving Pool with scores of 332.40 and 295.35, respectively.
Michigan, which monopolized the Big 10 title during the '90s but has lost the last two championships meets to Minnesota, is idle until it plays host to the league meet on Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 27-March 1. Preliminaries will begin each day's events at noon with finals scheduled for 7 p.m.
This will mark the first time Canham Natatorium has hosted the men's Big Ten Championships since 2000, when the Wolverines won their 31st –and most recent — conference team title.
For the Wolverines, there really IS no place like Canham.
– Bill Bell