Aggies Extend Lead on Day Two of Big 12 Championships

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AUSTIN -- The Texas A&M women’s swimming & diving team extended its first place lead in the Big 12 Championship race by winning all four races and setting two all-time conference records on the second day of action at the Texas Swimming Center on Thursday evening.

The Aggies lead the host Texas Longhorns, 325-271, with two days remaining in the Big 12 meet. Kansas is third with 185.5 points, followed by Missouri (167.5), Iowa State (124), and Nebraska (117).

“Tonight was another exciting night of racing for us, A&M head coach Steve Bultman said. “We are putting up really good times, all things considered, right now.”

Senior Jenni Stratton (Portland) turned in the swim of her life in an incredibly exciting 500 freestyle battle with Texas’ Susana Escobar and Aggie teammate and defending champion Kristen Heiss (Casper, Wyo.). Stratton recorded a blazing final split of 26.87, eclipsing her two fierce competitors in the final 25 yards. Heiss, who led for much of the battle between the three, finished third in a lifetime-best swim NCAA automatic qualifying swim of 4:43.53. Junior Codie Hansen (Arlington) was seventh in 4:49.07.

“Jenni’s such a great closer,” Bultman said. “If she’s anywhere close with 100 or so left she got a chance. She can really change gears and come home when she needs to and she certainly did that tonight.”

Junior Julia Wilkinson (Stratford, Ont.) annihilated the all-time Big 12 record of 1:58.03 in the 200 individual medley, winning her first conference title in the event in 1:56.12, the fourth fastest time in the nation. Defending champion Christine Marshall (Newport News, Va.) took the silver in 1:58.98, her fastest of the season and an NCAA automatic qualifying effort. Freshman Melanie Dodds (Maple Ridge, B.C.) was sixth in 2:02.39 while freshman transfer Lindsey King (Beaverton, Ore.) tied for seventh in 2:03.92.

“That was a great swim from the get-go for Julia,” Bultman said. “She was solid all the way through with four really good splits. I was hoping she’d go 1:56-something and she certainly did better than that. She almost went 1:55.”

Thursday proved to be a particularly successful day for the Aggies’ 50 freestylers as three women went under the 23-second barrier for the first time in their life, while school record holder Triin Aljand (Tallinn, Estonia) lowered the school record to an incredibly fast 22.11 during morning prelims.

Aljand wasn’t done there though as she lowered the A&M 50 free record again, down to 22.02, in the championship final to win her third straight conference title in the event. Aljand toyed with giving the Aggies a third consecutive all-time Big 12 record, missing the record by a mere .03. Junior Marissa Jasek (San Antonio) turned in the best 50 of her life in the championship final at 22.73 to grab third place and move into second on the all-time Texas A&M list in the event. Sophomore Sarah Woods (Birmingham, Ala.) set a lifetime best of 22.83 during prelims then hit the wall in 22.95 to earn a tie for fourth place.

Local walk-on and former Aggie Swim Club age grouper Maria Sommer (Brenham) also had a very memorable day in the 50 free. Sommer, a freshman who had never cracked the 24-second barrier before stepping on the A&M campus, now finds herself as the fourth-fastest 50 freestyler in Aggie history, behind only Aljand, Jasek, and eight-time All-American Rebecca Sturdy (22.78), after an eye-opening fast swim of 22.79 during morning prelims.

“Our sprinters just did an outstanding job,” Bultman said. “We got three new girls under 23 seconds for the first time. That is really exciting for us and them especially having them all back again next year.”

The Aggies closed the meet with the second-fastest 400 medley relay in Big 12 history to win their third relay race in the last two days. Julia Wilkinson led the group off in a school record 100-yard backstroke time of 53.59 while Alia Atkinson (Pembroke Pines, Fla.), Triin Aljand, and Christine Marshall closed the door in an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 3:35.53.

“Rebecca (Sturdy’s) 100 back record was a really tough one to take down,” Bultman said. “That was a truly great swim by Julia. We also had good, solid breast and fly splits and Christine had a really good freestyle split coming home. All four girls went out there and did a great job.”

Sophomore diver Alex Tipple (Thunder Bay, Ont.) earned a career-best fourth-place finish at the Big 12 meet on the one-meter springboard to qualify for the Zone D Championships in two weeks. Tipple dove her way to a personal best score of 274.60 to move into third place on the all-time A&M one-meter championship list.

Day three of four of the 2008 Big 12 Championships will begin on Friday with preliminaries at 10 a.m. and finals scheduled for 6 p.m.

500 Freestyle - Finals

1. Jenni Stratton, 4:42.79$T!

3. Kristen Heiss, 4:43.53$

7. Codie Hansen, 4:49.07*

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9. Beth McCullough, 4:47.52*

11. Hannah Kinder, 4:49.32*

12. Casey Hurrell-Zitelman, 4:49.42*

13. Melissa Hain, 4:51.32

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19. Sally Ranzau, 4:56.29

500 Freestyle – Prelims

1. Kristen Heiss, 4:45.55*

3. Jenni Stratton, 4:47.47*

4. Codie Hansen, 4:47.53*

9. Beth McCullough, 4:49.87*

13. Melissa Hain, 4:51.26*

14. Casey Hurrell-Zitelman, 4:52.48*

15. Hannah Kinder, 4:53.39*

17. Sally Ranzau, 4:55.79

29. Sarah Froehlich, 5:02.62

200 Individual Medley – Finals

1. Julia Wilkinson, 1:56.12$T!

2. Christine Marshall, 1:58.98$

6. Melanie Dodds, 2:02.39*

7T. Lindsey King, 2:03.92*

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11. Chelsea Helgason, 2:04.46

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17. Erin Mahoney, 2:01.50*

18. Megan Rains, 2:04.17

19. Brittany Lentz-Raiford, 2:06.32

22. Rebekah Love, 2:08.00

200 Individual Medley – Prelims

1. Julia Wilkinson, 1:58.18$

2. Christine Marshall, 2:00.17$

5. Erin Mahoney, 2:01.87*

6. Melanie Dodds, 2:01.99*

9. Lindsey King, 2:03.56*

11. Chelsea Helgason, 2:04.84

12. Megan Rains, 2:05.06

14. Brittany Lentz-Raiford, 2:06.38

24. Rebekah Love, 2:08.80

37. Renee Iserman, 2:14.74

Exh. Emily Neal, 2:02.98*

Exh. Caroline Maxvill, 2:05.05

50 Freestyle – Finals

1. Triin Aljand, 22.02$T

3. Marissa Jasek, 22.73*

4T. Sarah Woods, 22.95*

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17. Maria Sommer, 23.13

50 Freestyle – Prelims

1. Triin Aljand, 22.11$

3. Maria Sommer, 22.79*

5. Sarah Woods, 22.83*

6. Marissa Jasek, 22.95*

Exh. Alia Atkinson, 23.21*

Exh. Ella Doerge, 23.31

Exh. Hannah Kinder, 23.82

One-Meter Diving

4. Alex Tipple, 274.60D

17. Emily Watson, 209.55

400 Medley Relay

1. Texas A&M (Wilkinson, Atkinson, Aljand, Marshall) 3:35.43$

(Wilkinson, 53.59 leadoff leg; A&M school record in 100 back)

$ - NCAA Automatic Qualifier

* - NCAA Consideration Time

D – Zone D Diving Qualifying Performance

T – Texas A&M School Record

! – Big 12 All-Time Record



 
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