By Dan D’Addona.
When Paul Powers and the Michigan senior men stepped onto the pool deck at Canham Natatorium for the first time, the Wolverines were the reigning national champions.
The Wolverines continued that momentum and finished in the top five at the NCAA championships.
But things took a turn his sophomore season.
“Coming in, especially after winning a national championship, it is easy to rest on your laurels. My freshman year we did well, then we kind of fell off,” Powers said.
Finishing outside the top 10 was not something the Wolverines expected. Failing to reach that goal two years in a row added insult to injury.
“Everybody started to take it personally. It struck everybody deep because we had been a top 10 team for like 10-20 years. Then last year, repeating the same results, it make us realize we needed to get to work,” Powers said.
The biggest shock to the Wolverines was failing to win the Big Ten Championship for the first time in recent memory last season.
“Everybody is fighting for the goal, especially after losing Big Tens last year. That lit the flame. We want to win Big Tens and are ready to light it up,” Powers said.
Michigan is back in the top 10 rankings and is staring at another showdown with Indiana, another top 10 team, for the Big Ten title.
The past couple of years has renewed one of the best Big Ten rivalries in the pool.
“It is going to be down to the wire. Every single race matters. Beating someone out by .01 could be the difference in the meet,” Powers said. “That is what it is going to come down to, fighting for every last inch.
“Everybody is trying to win. When we are at a meet, we hate them, they hate us. But outside the competition, we all have friends on the other team, that is just how it is. We are excited that everyone in the country is swimming faster and faster. That is just going to push the evolution of the sport.”
It has pushed the evolution of the Michigan men back to a national contender.