Michigan ends Cal's two-year run, wins first national championship since '95
INDIANAPOLIS -- When Michigan's Bruno Ortiz pulled himself out of the water after swimming the anchor leg in the 400-yard freestyle relay Saturday night, the singing started.
"Hail to the Victors" echoed around the Indiana University Natatorium at IUPUI, beginning from two Michigan spectator sections on one side of the building and carrying over to the Michigan bench area on the pool deck.
The Wolverines did not win the 400 relay, instead they settled for second place. But it didn't matter. Michigan had wrapped up its first national team title since 1995 at the Division I Men's Swimming and Diving Championships long before that final relay event. The Wolverines arrived here with an overwhelming lineup of 17 swimmers and they advanced as many as four swimmers in more than one championship and consolation final. All five of their relay teams finished in the top three.
"This morning, we jut kind of let our passion drive us. And that was it," said Connor Jaeger, who began Michigan's title drive on the final night with a victory in the 1,650 freestyle. He also won the 500 free in the meet's first individual race Thursday.
Michigan's victory halted a two-year title run by California, not that the Wolverines had counted on it. They had hoped to finish among the top three teams.
"We started four years ago working on this," said Michigan coach Mike 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."
Michigan totaled 480 points, racking up 176 of them on five relay events in which it never finished lower than third. Cal was runner-up with 406.5 points and Arizona placed third.
Tom Shields, a senior at Cal, helped lead the Golden Bears into the No. 2 slot with a tremendous win in the 200-yard butterfly. He tied Michael Phelps' American and U.S. Open record in the event with a time of 1:39.65. It did set a new NCAA championships record. Shields won two races, finished second in the 100 backstroke and swam in four relay races in three nights for Cal. At the end of it all, he was happy the Bears were to able to stay in the hunt for a title and finish second.
"Staying in that sustainability, as (Cal coach Dave) Durden says, is very important," Shields said.
Shields' performance in the 200 fly was just a part of a record night that included yet another stunning swim by Arizona sophomore Kevin Cordes. He broke his own American record Saturday morning in the 200 breaststroke preliminaries, than smashed it again in the finals.
Cordes won the 200 breast in 1:48.68, leading a one-two Arizona sweep in the butterfly for the second straight night. So dominating was his victory that the third-place swimmer, Trevor Hoyt of Cal, was nearly four seconds back. Friday in the 100 breaststroke, he also set the American, U.S. Open and championship meet records.
"I'm going to take this in and enjoy it," Cordes said.
A record also fell in the 100 freestyle. Southern Cal's Vlad Morozov blasted off the starting block for the lead and won the race in 40.76 seconds. It shaved 0.16 seconds off the previous championship and U.S. Open record set by Cesar Cielo of Auburn in 2008. Auburn's Marcelo Chierighini was nearly one second back of Morozov.
Cordes, Shields, Cordes and Stanford's David Nolan each won two individual swimming events. Cordes was named the Swimmer of the Meet. Nolan, who won the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke earlier in the week, placed second in the 200 backstroke Saturday. Marcin Cieslak of Florida finished second in all three of his individual events and helped the Gators win the 800 freestyle relay.
Kristian Ipsen, a bronze medalist at the London 2012 Olympic Games, clearly was a hit on the diving board. He won titles in the 1- and 3-meter diving events Thursday and Friday, then finished runner-up to Olympic teammate Nick McCrory in Saturday's platform event. He was named the Diver of the Year and his coach, Rick Schavone, was named Diving Coach of the Year.
But at the end of the night, it was all Michigan. After every Cal and Michigan athlete walked by each other and exchanged congratulatory handshakes, the Wolverines jumped into the pool with the national championship trophy and started another chorus of "Hail to the Victors." Bottom's glasses dropped to the bottom of the pool.
Among those Wolverines were senior Miguel Ortiz and his younger brother, Bruno. They swam in four relays together, including the Wolverines' second-place finish in that final 400 freestyle. They swam the first two legs of Michigan's win Friday in the 200 medley relay.
"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, but its finest moment came Friday, when its 200 medley relay team broke the championship, American and U.S. Open records with a winning time of 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."