The Wolverine

August 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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78 THE WOLVERINE AUGUST 2018   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? around and say, 'All right. We see something in this team that can be great. We've got all the puzzle pieces here. How do we elevate everybody to this level?' "We did. It took the whole team to sign up for this, and it was head down for eight months, believing we could win NCAAs that year." That's precisely what they did in the 2012-13 season. Paced by Jaeger, the Big Ten Swimmer of the Year and Michigan Male Athlete of the Year, they captured the program's first na- tional title since 1995. Jaeger became the NCAA champion in the 500-yard freestyle (4:10.84) and the 1,650-yard freestyle (14:27.18). He earned four All-America cita- tions at the national meet, but more importantly, helped hoist the hard- ware for the best team in the country. "We had such a great turnout of alumni, parents and fans," Jaeger said, reveling in the memory. "It was at IUPUI, which is not our home pool, obviously. But it has such a home vibe for us. Michigan has always done really well at NCAAs at that pool. We've had good world championship and Olympic Trials at that pool. "There was even a little bit of magic about NCAAs being at the pool that year. I remember a lot of hype, internally with the team, about that leading up to it." He also remembers breakfasts with the team during the championships, music blaring, along with alums cheer- ing on athletes exhausted from their efforts in the pool the night before. "I definitely remember the 200 medley relay, setting the NCAA and U.S. Open record," Jaeger said. "That was the loudest I've ever heard a swim meet for us. They set that re- cord and won. Even thinking about it right now gives me goosebumps. We had a lot of really great moments." As for his individual national titles, Jaeger proved humbly circumspect. "I had a lot of fun doing them," he quipped. "It's amazing how much faster the guys are now, already, only five years later. NCAAs has gotten so much faster. "The guy I was racing, neck and neck, for both of those races was a guy swimming for the University of Texas, Michael McBroom. That was our introduction to each other. "From there, we have been on mul- tiple USA teams together. We actu- ally ended up becoming really good friends." Jaeger 's upward arc didn't con- tinue unimpeded. Months after sit- ting at the top of the NCAA world, he found himself lying in a hospital bed, a victim of viral meningitis. While doctors eliminated the pos- sibility of the ultra-contagious and potentially deadly bacterial menin- gitis, Jaeger remained in the hospital for two days, getting pumped full of antibiotics. "I was so sick, and I didn't know what was wrong with me," he said of the time leading to his hospitaliza- tion. "I was going to bed with frozen bags of peas on my forehead. I had such a bad headache, I didn't know what was going on." Getting released didn't mark the end of his troubles. "The worst part was when they took the IV out," he recalled. "The IV had formed a clot in my vein, and the vein's response to that is it gets super, super hard. My vein was so hard, I couldn't bend my arm. "I'm recovering from the meningi- tis, but I can't swim, because I can't bend my right arm. That was hard." He remained out for three weeks in the early part of his senior season. His response? Jaeger eventually re- peated as Big Ten Swimmer of the Year, capturing another national title in the 1,650-yard freestyle (14:29.27) and posting three more All-America efforts. Jaeger went on to earn the silver medal in the 1,500-meter freestyle at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. "It was a really, really great time," Jaeger recalled. "Having made the team the month before — having dedicated two years to making the team — there's all the happiness and release. "Mike Bottom was selected as a coach. That was his first Olympic team, as an athlete or a coach. Get- ting to share that with him was awe- some, really special." Now, Jaeger stays connected to swimming by teaching kids on the Fitter and Faster Swim Tour, flying to cities every other month or so to demonstrate how to reach for more. At work, the sky is literally the limit. "The first project I was on was in Hoboken," he said. "There was a small pool, not college distance swimming length, but a pool on the roof deck, and the deck also had an unobstructed view of Manhattan. Di- rectly across the river was the Empire State Building. "For a pool guy, that was pretty cool." ❏ The Connor Jaeger File M ichigan Accomplishments: Played an integral role in Michigan's 2013 national championship, win- ning two individual titles among four All-America efforts … In his career, captured three NCAA cham- pionships and performed as an All- American 10 times … Earned Big Ten Swimmer of the Year and Michi- gan Male Athlete of the Year in his junior and senior seasons. Professional Accomplishments: Works for the City Living Division of Toll Brothers, a residential devel- opment firm … Jaeger focuses on high rises, including major projects in Manhattan, N.Y., Brooklyn, N.Y., and Jersey City, N.J. Education: Earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engi- neering in 2014 … Added a Master of Management degree from the Ross School of Business in 2016. Michigan Memory: "Hosting Big Tens at Canham [Natatorium] our senior year, and winning, and get- ting to sing The Victors with the team and our parents in the stands, will always stay with me," he said. Family: Engaged to be married in October 2018 to Courtney Beidler, also a Michigan swimming alum. Jaeger — who is engaged to be married to fellow U-M swimming alum Courtney Beidler (right) — helps develop high-rise projects in New York City and New Jersey. PHOTO COURTESY CONNOR JAEGER

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