Back-to-Back Big 12 Champs Have Sights Set on NCAA Championships

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COLLEGE STATION -- The back-to-back Big 12 champion Texas A&M women¹s swimming & diving team will compete at the 2008 NCAA Championships this Thursday through Saturday at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion on the campus of Ohio State University.

Last season, the Aggies achieved the first top 10 finish in school history, scoring a school record 198 points to claim eighth place. With 14 swimmers scheduled to make the trip to nationals this season, A&M looks to make even more inroads amongst the nation¹s elite swimming & diving programs.

³It¹s exciting that we are taking as many as we are this year,² A&M head coach Steve Bultman said. ³We want to place higher than last year and have our highest finish in school history. Having not only as many girls at the meet as we do, but having all of them capable of scoring points is a great thing for what we are trying to get accomplished as a group.²

The Aggies are coming off their second consecutive Big 12 championship team title. A&M topped the University of Texas in Austin by a 968-748 margin for their second Big 12 swimming & diving title in school history.

A&M will take three seniors, six juniors, four sophomores, and one freshman to the national meet, making it the largest group the Aggies have ever taken to the NCAA Championships.

Senior co-captains Erin Mahoney (Wichita, Kan.) and Beth McCullough (Austin) as well as Big 12 500 free champion and all-time conference record holder Jenni Stratton (Portland, Ore.) will be representing the Aggies for the final time this weekend. The three have seen A&M grow from a team that finished in a tie for 14th at the 2005 NCAA Championships into a team that is a threat to finish among the top five in the nation this season.

The Aggies¹ vaunted junior class is known nationally as arguably the best in the country and it looks to add even more accolades to a resumé that includes 20 individual Big 12 titles and more than 40 All-American titles in less than three years.

Juniors Triin Aljand (Tallinn, Estonia) and Julia Wilkinson (Stratford,
Ont.) won five individual Big 12 titles between themselves last month and
are in position to threaten for possible NCAA titles. Christine Marshall
(Newport News, Va.) won her third and fourth Big 12 titles in Austin last
month and is a major threat to score points for the Aggies every time she
touches the water. Kristen Heiss (Casper, Wyo.) was the Aggies¹ top swimmer
at the 2007 NCAA Championships, becoming the first A&M swimmer, male or
female, to qualify for three night finals one year ago and is every bit the
threat Marshall is to score points in bunches every time she dives in the
pool. Texans Codie Hansen (Arlington) and Marissa Jasek (San Antonio) will
play major roles in determining just how high the Aggies will finish in the
freestyle relay events while having an eye on contributing points to the
team total individually as well.

The Aggie sophomores won three Big 12 titles last month led by four-time
breaststroke champion Alia Atkinson (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) and back-to-back
400 IM champ Melissa Hain (Kingwood). Emily Neal (Plano) finished no worse
than second in all three of her events at the conference meet while Sarah
Woods (Birmingham, Ala.) will look to help boost the Aggie sprint relays as
high up the ladder as possible.

Brenham native Maria Sommer will represent the freshman class at the NCAA
meet after a first year that saw her personal best time improvements rival
that of any swimmer in the nation. The walk-on ranks among the fastest
freestyle sprinters in Texas A&M history after less than a year wearing the
maroon and white.

The 2008 NCAA Championships will begin Thursday at 11 a.m. with
preliminaries while finals are slated to begin at 7 p.m. each day.