Holmquist looks to make mark for Michigan swimming

A great swimming tradition and great academics were big reasons to choose the University of Michigan, but for Stephen Holmquist it was personal, too.

His father Peter was a member of the Michigan men’s swimming team in the 1980s, and Big Blue had been a part of his life as far back as he can remember.

“I was always a big Michigan fan growing up. I always watched their games,” he said. “It was always my number one school.”

Holmquist, who graduated from Wilton High School in June, will join one of the country’s top men’s college programs this fall. The Wolverines finished third at the 2015 NCAA championships and are ranked first in the 2015-16 pre-season poll. Michigan has won a record 12 NCAA titles, with the last championship coming in 2013.

But the road to Ann Arbor wasn’t so simple. After a strong season for the Wilton Y Wahoos in 2013 put him on the radar of Division I schools, Holmquist was slowed by a stomach bug at last year’s YMCA Short Course National Championships. That poor showing could have hurt his chances of signing with a top swimming school, but he rebounded at the Speedo Junior Nationals last summer, placing sixth in the 1,500-meter freestyle and notching top 20 finishes in the 800-meter freestyle, 400-meter freestyle and 400-meter IM.

“I knew I could do better than the times I did (at Y nationals). I was able to prove myself right last year at Junior Nationals and make the Junior Olympic cut,” he said. “It was great to come back and show that I could make it on the team.”

After that performance, Holmquist had interest from many top schools and had plans to visit four — Michigan, Duke, Harvard and Princeton. But after visiting Michigan, and then Duke, he stopped the visits.

“I didn’t need to see any more schools,” he said. “I walked on the (Michigan) campus and immediately got goosebumps. They have just so much to offer you in terms of athletics and academics. The facilities are fantastic. They do so much to support student athletes.

Holmquist, who will study engineering, is excited to begin training with the team, especially as former Wolverine Connor Jaeger, one of the top distance swimmers in the world, trains with the team. Jaeger, along with two other former Michigan standouts, Tyler Clary and Sean Ryan, and current swimmer P.J. Ransford, were recently named to the 2015-16 U.S. National Team.

“The prospect of training with these guys is something I’m very excited about. Hopefully, with the surrounding talent, I can reach new goals,” said Holmquist, who will focus on events like the mile and 500-yard freestyle, and the 400 IM. His new team includes former Wahoo teammate Ian Rainey of Westport, a sophomore.

Holmquist is hoping he can make an impact as Michigan tries to win its 13th national title.

“They have a great team right now. They did graduate some great seniors, but hopefully I’ll be able to fill their shoes,” he said. “I’m definitely confident I can compete for that spot. I’m a competitive person and I’ve always had somebody to chase. I always strive to push for the guy in front of me, and it’s definitely pushed me to do better.”