COLLEGE STATION, Texas- The sixth-ranked Texas A&M women’s swimming & diving team swept all five races and broke two school records on their way to a first-place lead following day one of the Art Adamson Invitational being held at the Student Rec Center Natatorium this weekend.
The Aggies lead No. 13 Michigan, 453-359.5, while No. 12 SMU is in third place with 264.5 points.
“As we always do this time of year, we backed off of them at practice for a couple of days and have historically swam well and that sure continued today,” A&M head coach Steve Bultman said. “There were some just outstanding swims across the board for us.”
The Aggies produced remarkable performances in many events but they really put the quality of their depth on display in the 500-yard freestyle as three swimmers swam their lifetime best times in the same race to rank No. 1, 2, and 3 in the all-time A&M record book by race’s end.
Big 12 Swimmer of the Year Kristen Heiss (Casper, Wyo.) continued an amazing 2007 calendar year by breaking her own school record in the 500-yard freestyle. Heiss hit the wall first in 4:43.68, nearly two seconds faster than the NCAA automatic qualifying standard. Junior Codie Hansen (Arlington) closed well over the final 50 yards to come in behind Heiss in a lifetime-best of 4:45.22, automatically punching her ticket to the NCAA Championships as well. Senior co-captain Beth McCullough (Austin) unveiled the swim of her life, a 4:45.96 third-place time that ranks among the national leaders and, though not an automatic qualifier, is a shoo-in to qualify her for her first NCAA Championships.
Junior Julia Wilkinson (Stratford, Ont.) won a great 200-yard individual medley race between herself and Michigan’s Margaret Kelly to lower the A&M school record almost a full second to 1:57.20. Wilkinson annihilated the NCAA automatic standard of 2:00.34 to qualify her for the NCAA Championships. Freshman and fellow Canadian Melanie Dodds (Maple Ridge, B.C.) finished third in a strong consideration time of 2:01.68 while sophomore Emily Neal (Plano) was fourth in 2:01.98.
Junior Triin Aljand (Tallinn, Estonia) proved once again why she is the greatest 50 freestyler in A&M history by cruising to an impressive NCAA automatic qualifying win in 22.57. Aljand now owns each of the 10 fastest times in A&M history in the event with Friday’s performance being the fastest fall swim of her three-year collegiate career. Wilkinson finished third in 22.89 after turning in a split of 22.38 on the Aggies’ winning 200 free relay. Junior Marissa Jasek (San Antonio) and sophomore Sarah Woods (Birmingham, Ala.) finished sixth and seventh in lifetime-best swims of 23.09 and 23.30 as well.
The Aggies also punched their ticket to the NCAA Championship with a win in the 200-yard freestyle relay. The group of Jasek, Wilkinson, Woods, and Aljand blazed their way to a time of 1:30.84, the sixth-fastest performance in school history.
A&M closed the evening with a win in the 400-yard medley relay. The quartet of Wilkinson, Alia Atkinson (Pembroke Pines, Fla.), Aljand and Hansen swam the fifth-fastest time in A&M history at 3:38.46, just missing the NCAA automatic qualifying standard by .44.
“It’s always great to get ‘A’ cuts,” Bultman said. “Starting with the 200 free relay and going right on down the line we had at least one in every event until the very end and we just barely missed getting that one. We are only one day into the meet and already have a good group of girls qualified for nationals.”
Sophomore Alex Tipple (Thunder Bay, Ont.) produced the highest one-meter diving score of her collegiate career, a 275.50 fourth-place effort that improves on her zone qualifying performance set three weeks ago in Denton.
Day two of the Art Adamson Invitational will begin at 10 a.m. with preliminary heats. Finals are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
Admission to the Art Adamson Invitational is free of charge. The 12th Man Team Rewards Program will be in attendance to scan its program members as well.