Michael Phelps, Olympic swimmers draw hundreds to ASU v. UA meet

Bob Bowman drawing buzz to Swim and Dive's future

It was the last home meet of the season for ASU Swim and Dive, and hundreds of fans crowded the stands of Mona Plummer Aquatic Center on Feb. 6 to watch the team take on the U of A Wildcats. 

But to many fans, there was a bigger draw. 

After all, Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, was walking the pool decks mere feet away from them.

On the deck with him was Bob Bowman, ASU’s head swim coach and U.S. Men’s head swim coach; Misty Hyman, Olympic swimmer and assistant swim coach; and an arsenal of world-class swimmers.

Clad in an ASU swim cap and his neon yellow MP-brand swim suit, there were cheers echoing through the center when Phelps walked out on the desk.

The meet was abuzz as ASU Men defeated the UA Men’s team and swimmers broke record after school record. But the biggest energy boom came when Phelps climbed on the block with other Olympic swimmers, like Allison Schmitt and Matt Grevers.

Michael Phelps swims the 200 meter freestyle exhibition:

Michael Phelps swims the 200 meter freestyle exhibition on February 6 at the ASU v. U of A swim meet from The State Press on Vimeo.

At the same time, many fans trickled out of the stadium after Phelps pulled himself out of the pool. It begs the question: is the actual team being overshadowed?

Brendan Weiner, ASU alum and former swimmer on the pre-Bowman era team, said no.

“In a sport that gets as much attention on a regular basis as swimming — anything to bring people into the stands like this and get that energy up," he said.

He said the draw of Bowman and Phelps, who is set to take on a position as the team’s assistant coach in Fall 2016, will take the team to the next level.

“I think it is so cool to have such a high caliber of swimming and coaching here,” Weiner said. “It’s really cool to watch, to come out here and see the energy in these swim meets that wasn’t here two or three years ago.”

Weiner was leaning over the railing watching the meet with a pack of ASU Swim alumni. He said many of them go out to support the team and have seen how Bowman has methodically built up the success and, in turn, the overall buzz of the swim team.

Kayra Zsiga, a recently graduated ASU alumna who spent three years on the team, agreed with Weiner. She said that this Olympic energy is the thing that takes the team to another level.

“There’s a different mindset. I think more people are excited to compete, to race. They’re doing more of the things that they like and I think they’re only going to get faster,” she said.

But that excitement was due to the methodical work of USG President Issac Miller, who worked with ASU athletics department to gather a crowd. Part of that strategy was in signage — plastering signs about the rivalry and Phelp’s attendance around all four campuses.

Miller said with this new energy and almost built-in fanbase, ASU swim is bound for success.

"I think a lot more wins are in store for the team in the upcoming years," he said. "I think Bowman is growing a really great program here and I’m very optimistic about it."

Reach the assistant news editor at megan.janetsky@asu.edu or follow @meganjanetsky on Twitter.

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