By Dan D’Addona.
Four years ago, the Michigan women’s swim program was at a crossroads.
The women had just watched the Michigan men win the national championship the previous season, but in their meet, finished an unimpressive 22nd. It was actually an improvement from the 36th place two years prior when Mike Bottom took over the program.
Four years later, the Wolverines were on the podium, earning the trophy for fourth place.
It was a quick and stunning turnaround and just the fourth time in history the Wolverines earned a team trophy — and the first time since a third-place finish in 1996.
“It feels good,” Bottom said. “It is what we call a ‘Go Blue’ moment when we do things we set out to do. I know this senior class had this as a goal — and after finishing 22nd it was a pretty lofty goal.”
But when did Bottom realize fourth was possible?
“Yesterday,” he said. “We decided we could get sixth and we were going to be happy getting sixth, but today, we knew we could get fourth.”
The Wolverines rebuilt little by little. That year, the incoming freshmen included All-Americans G Ryan and Gabby DeLoof, younger sister of Ali DeLoof, one of the top Wolverines, as well as Clara Smiddy, an All-American in the 200 back.
A year later, the class included distance specialist Rose Bi from China and freestyle and IM All-American Siobhan Haughey from Hong Kong, a future Olympian. Not to mention yet another DeLoof, Catie DeLoof, who like the rest was on her way to All-American status.
The Wolverines improved to 10th. Then 11th a year later with nearly the same team, just missing Ali DeLoof’s points.
Sophomore’s Miranda Tucker and Vanessa Krause scored at this weekend’s NCAA championships as well as did freshmen Sierra Schmidt, Daria Pyshenko diver Christy Cutshaw and transfer Taylor Garcia.
“It was a lot of hard work,” said Smiddy, who finished fifth in the 200 back. “This morning, there was a huge switch in attitude when a bunch of our team showed up in the stands — that is what it is all about, the team.”
Led by Smiddy and the upperclassmen.
“The best part about it was looking to my teammates right before and right after — and they were going crazy the whole time,” Smiddy said. “It made it all worth it.”
Haughey and Gabby DeLoof scored in all three of their individual events, led by Haughey’s stellar runner-up performance in the 200 free. Ryan made the top eight in the 1650 free. Meanwhile, Tucker scored in both breaststroke events, Bi scored in the 500 and 1650, Schmidt scored in the 1650 and Krause surged to the 200 butterfly final.
“Coming into the meet we just wanted to score as many points as possible and swim great times,” Haughey said.
It was as simple as that to the Michigan Wolverines.
“I just look up to (Siobhan, G and Gabby) so much. They are the veterans of the team and really have an influence on the rest of us,” Tucker said. “The hard work is there and it is amplified by the team — the team, the team. We are all there for each other and lift each other up for the team. That makes the work so much more beneficial for us. All we can do is the best we can do.”
It is a loaded team, but balanced by year, which means the Wolverines aren’t going anywhere.