COLLEGE STATION, Texas- Texas A&M junior Julia Wilkinson (Stratford, Ont.) made day two of the Art Adamson Invitational her own personal playground as she led the Aggies to a near insurmountable lead at the Student Rec Center Natatorium on Saturday night.
Wilkinson set one school record, just missed another and capped the evening off by whipping the crowd into a frenzy with an impressive come-from-behind victory over SMU in the final relay. The Aggies lead No. 13 Michigan, 1,064-801.5, while No. 12 Southern Methodist is third with 585.5 points.
After anchoring the 200-yard medley relay in a jaw-dropping time of 21.97, Wilkinson became the first Aggie to crack the 1:46 barrier in the 200-yard freestyle by capturing first place in 1:45.96. Two events later, Wilkinson was at it again, recording a lifetime-best swim of 53.72 in the 100-yard backstroke that fell just .08 short of the A&M record. To close the evening session, the A&M star erased a body-length deficit in the 800 free relay to make the Aggies a perfect 4-0 in relays for the weekend.
“To be perfectly honest, I felt a little tired today before some of my events so I went around talking to different people to help pump myself up,” Wilkinson said. “I totally didn’t see that time coming in the backstroke but I sure am happy about it. Today was a pretty awesome day.”
Wilkinson wasn’t the only Aggie having a banner day. Texas A&M senior Jenni Stratton (Portland, Ore.) swam the second fastest 400 individual medley time in school history, 4:12.68, in racing to a first place finish. Stratton led a trio of Aggies that automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships in the event. Sophomore Emily Neal (Plano) punched a return ticket to NCAA’s with a lifetime-best swim of 4:14.31 for third place while Big 12 400 IM champion Melissa Hain (Kingwood) also hit the ‘A’ cut after hitting the wall in 4:15.09.
A&M was simply magnificent in the 200-yard freestyle as nine different Aggies swam NCAA consideration marks led by Wilkinson’s school record of 1:45.96. Five different Aggies went under 1:48 as well. Junior Codie Hansen (Arlington) was third for A&M in 1:47.13 while senior Beth McCullough (Austin) continued the meet of her career with a lifetime-best swim of 1:47.56 for fifth place. Junior Kristen Heiss (Casper, Wyo.) was sixth in 1:47.62 while freshman Hannah Kinder (Cape Girardeau, Mo.) was right behind her in a lifetime-best swim of 1:48.97. In addition, junior Marissa Jasek (San Antonio) won the consolation final in a lifetime-best of 1:47.98, leading a 1-2-3-4-5 A&M finish in that finals heat.
Freshman Alia Atkinson (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) punched her ticket to the NCAA Championships with an NCAA automatic qualifying win in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:01.03). Senior Chelsea Helgason (Olympia, Wash.) was the second Aggie to hit the wall, recording a lifetime-best performance of 1:03.71 for fourth place. Sophomore Reneé Iserman (Spring) was fifth in 1:03.87 as well.
A&M began the evening by taking the top spot in the 200-yard medley relay. The group of Triin Aljand (Tallinn, Estonia), Atkinson, Megan Rains (Puyallup, Wash.), and Wilkinson recorded a high NCAA consideration time of 1:40.07.
The group of Hansen, McCullough, Heiss, and Wilkinson swam the third-fastest 800-yard freestyle relay time in A&M history at 7:09.50, grabbing first place thanks to Wilkinson’s come-from-behind anchor leg. The relay also easily qualified automatically for the NCAA Championships.
Junior Triin Aljand took second place honors in the 100-yard butterfly in 53.84 while senior Megan Rains was sixth in a lifetime best of 54.70.
Sophomore Alex Tipple (Thunder Bay, Ont.) continued the best meet of her collegiate career by setting a best of 275.55 during prelims on the three-meter springboard. Tipple went on to capture fifth place in the final.
During morning prelims, a handful of Aggies recorded U.S. Olympic Trial qualifying performances. Those performances are as follows: Melissa Hain, 400 IM 4:53.58; Codie Hansen, 200 free, 2:02.84; Beth McCullough, 200 free, 2:02.94; and Megan Rains, 100 fly, 1:01.87.
Through two days of the Art Adamson Invitational, the Aggies have already automatically qualified an impressive 11 swimmers for the 2008 NCAA Championships while numerous others have consideration times.
Day three of the Art Adamson Invitational will begin at 9:30 a.m. with preliminary heats. Finals are scheduled to begin at 4:30 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.