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Wolverines: Top Of The NCAA Food Chain

Mar 31, 2013  - Craig Lord

After Day 1 at the men's NCAA showdown in Indianapolis, former Michigan boss Bob Bowman tweeted: "Michigan has the best team energy so far. Auburn and USC having a good night. CAL still waiting for a spark." He wasn't alone in predicting that coach Mike Bottom and crew would ride the crest of the college wave.

The end result: Michigan's Wolverines scorched the title 480-406.5 over California, the rest left trailing way back in the wash: Arizona (313.5), Southern California (289) and Texas (288) were followed by Florida (285.5), Stanford (282), Auburn (226.5), Indiana (201) and Georgia (163).

The singing started when Michigan’s Bruno Ortiz pulled himself out of the water after the concluding 4x100y free relay last night, reports from Indy noted. “Hail to the Victors” echoed around the Indiana University Natatorium at IUPUI as Michigan came home second to a Southern California quartet bolstered by Russian world s/c sprint champion Vladimir Morozov.

As College Swimming put it: it didn’t matter. For Michigan that is. They'd won a commanding victory, the first triumph for the Wolverines since since 1995. It was a team-wide success: all five of its relays finished top 3.

“This morning, we jut kind of let our passion drive us. And that was it,” said Michigan's Connor Jaeger, who started the meet off with a 500y free triumph and got the last-day party started with victory in the 1,650y free in 14:27.18 ahead of Michael McBroom, Texas, on 14:32.75.  

California had come looking for a third win in a row, Michigan for a top 4 finish. “We started four years ago working on this,” said coach Bottom, who was named Coach of the Year after the meet. “You do it one day at a time, you do it one student-athlete at a time. We started out with one recruiting class that we were scrambling on. These are the guys. It’s awesome to see those guys grow up, become leaders and take this team to this level.”

There were plenty of high points for others too. Tom Shields, a senior at Cal, boosted the Golden Bears by matching Michael Phelps’ American and US Open record with a 1:39.65 in the 200y 'fly, the time an NCAA championships record.  “Staying in that sustainability, as (Cal coach Dave) Durden says, is very important,” Shields said.

Arizona sophomore Kevin Cordes broke his own American record on Saturday morning in the 200 breaststroke prelims and then cracked it wide open in the final with a 1:48.68 victory. “I’m going to take this in and enjoy it,” Cordes said. Cordes was named the Swimmer of the Meet.

There was a record, too, for Morozov, on 40.76sec in the 100y freem his effort shaving 0.16 seconds off the previous championship and US Open record set by Cesar Cielo (BRA), of Auburn, at the advent of the short-lived shiny suits era. Morozov broke his own school record in the 50 free at the meet, with an 18.63sec blast to become the first Trojans athlete to win the free dash since Joe Bottom swept all before him in the 1975-77 seasons. Racing the third leg of the 4x50y free relay, Morozov clocked 17.86 to become the first person under 18 seconds on a 50 split.

In the wash of stories was this: senior Wolverine Miguel Ortiz had younger brother Bruno there to celebrate the win: they swam in four relays together, including the Wolverines’ second-place finish in that concluding 4x100 free. “Definitely it being my senior year, having my brother here, everything was just the right moment,” said Miguel Ortiz, an eight-time Big Ten champion.

Michigan won all five relay championships at the Big Ten. In Indy, its sole win was a big one: the championship, American and US Open records in the 4x100 medley fell to the Wolverines in 1:22.27.

“We need to swim fast not only for ourselves, but our fans, to inspire what we’re trying to do,” Bottom said. “We’re trying to inspire a generation of young people who come out to the meet and see you swim. I want them to see the best.”