Ann Arbor — As if on cue, they giggle adorably, almost in unison.
Their friends call them the “Goofy DeLoofys” or the “DeGoofs,” a reality show sure to be coming soon.
They are Ali, Gabby and Catie DeLoof, sisters who swam together at Grosse Pointe South High and now are on the Michigan swim team. Younger sister Jacqueline is a senior at South, and likely will swim for the Wolverines next season.
Ali, the oldest, a senior and tri-captain, leads the Wolverines into the NCAA swimming and diving championships this week at McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta. Michigan is ranked No. 3 and coming off its first Big Ten title in 12 years.
Ali swims the 100-yard freestyle, 100 backstroke, 400 medley relay, 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay (with Gabby).
“She’s just starting to see her potential,” Michigan coach Mike Bottom said of Ali, who finished second in the Winter Nationals to Olympian Missy Franklin in the 100 backstroke. “Being able to race Missy was probably not something she saw herself doing until she did it.
“I don’t think she was ever afraid of anything, but what this year has done, leading this team to a Big Ten championship, working with her sisters, working with other great swimmers, I think that’s helped her see herself as an international player.”
Ali DeLoof isn’t nervous about the NCAAs, but knows this will mark the end of her college career. Gabby will take over the role as the oldest swimming DeLoof at Michigan as she enters her junior year, while Catie will be a sophomore and move into the house Gabby has been sharing with Ali.
To be noted, Gabby unanimously was voted the cleanest of the DeLoof sisters and does all the laundry, while Ali does the cooking.
What does Catie do?
“Nothing,” she said, drawing giggles from the three.
“She drops off her laundry she hasn’t done in two weeks,” Gabby said.
The younger DeLoofs didn’t follow Ali to Michigan just because, but now that they’re there, they’re thrilled by the outcome.
How they got their nicknames isn’t a stretch to figure out. They giggle a lot and have fun.
“Catie and I like to dance on deck weirdly sometimes,” Ali said. “We’ve been doing it a lot more because of taper time. We have a lot more energy. Just stupid stuff. I like to make a lot of weird faces.”
“I think we all do,” Gabby said.
“We giggle a lot,” Ali said. “Very giggly.”
There is nothing funny, though, about her career at Michigan and how she hopes for an international career.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet ending, but I’m excited to see what we can do,” Ali said. “We have a shot of being in the top 10 this year, so that’s exciting. Best we’ve done in a while. We just won Big Ten a couple weeks ago, so we’re still on that high.”
It was a moment that gave Bottom confidence when nerves about the NCAA crept in.
When he needs a reminder of how far the team has come, he imagines the post-Big Ten championships podium at Canham Natatorium.
“I climb back up on that podium and see the girls on that podium having won the Big Ten championship here, and they’re doing OK,” he said. “They’re having fun. We have accomplished one of the major goals of the program to put ourselves back as a championship program.”
Ali, who hopes to get a master’s at Michigan and become a third-grade teacher, said regardless of what transpires at the NCAA meet, she leaves her college career feeling good about the direction of the program.
“It was four years, a lot of training, a lot of ups and downs, but it was definitely worthwhile,” Ali said. “I saw results every year but to have my senior year and win at home for the Big Ten championships was awesome. It was icing on the cake.”
And no one is giggling about that.
Today-Saturday, McAuley Aquatic Center, Atlanta
Preliminaries: 10 a.m. each day
Diving: 1-meter trials — 12:30 today. 3-meter trials — 12:15 p.m. Friday. Platform trials — 12:15 p.m. Saturday
Finals: 6 p.m. each day
Coverage: ESPN3 or atlantaswimming.net/webcast