COLUMBUS, OH -- Texas A&M junior Kristen Heiss (Casper, Wyo.) earned the highest individual women’s swimming NCAA finish in school history with a third-place showing in the 500-yard freestyle to help lead the Aggies’ charge into fourth place on day one of the 2008 NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships.
Heiss swam a methodical, steady race, biding her time over the first half of the competition. As the field slowed, Heiss took advantage, passing swimmer after swimmer, climbing all the way up to within striking distance of second place at race’s end. Heiss finished in a school record and all-time A&M and Big 12 best time of 4:40.03. Caroline Burckle of Florida broke Janet Evans’ 18 year-old NCAA record of 4:34.39 by going 4:33.60 to take first place.
“(Head Coach) Steve (Bultman) told me before I swam that my best races come when I come from behind,” Heiss said. “I wanted to start a little faster tonight than I did this morning. Although I didn’t start much faster, it worked out for me anyway. It’s so much fun to see how fast we’re swimming as a team compared to our freshman year and even last year. It’s a really exciting time for all of us.”
Arizona is in first place in the team standings with 151 points while two-time defending champion Auburn is second with 132. California is in third place with 89 points, just a single point ahead of Texas A&M. Stanford is in fifth with 80 points.
“You have to feel great after a day like today,” Bultman said. “We broke school records in every race but one. You can’t ask for much more than that. We want to place as high as we can but you also can’t control how others are doing. If we keep swimming fast like we’re doing, the places will take care of themselves.”
Junior Julia Wilkinson (Straford, Ont.) earned the highest NCAA finish of her career with a lifetime, school, and all-time Big 12 record time of 1:55.45 in the 200-yard individual medley. Auburn sophomore Ava Ohlgren took the top spot in 1:53.94.
Junior Triin Aljand (Tallinn, Estonia) equaled a career-best NCAA finish of fifth-place in the 50 freestyle with a time of 22.06, the second fastest time of her life. Arizona junior Lara Jackson won the 50 free in 21.69.
The Aggie 200-yard freestyle relay team of Triin Aljand, Sarah Woods (Birmingham, Ala.), Maria Sommer (Brenham), and Marissa Jasek (San Antonio) hit the wall in 1:29.52, the second-fastest time in school history, to get the Aggies into the scoring column first. Woods, Sommer and Jasek each earned the first All-American honors of their careers as well. Arizona won in an NCAA and American record time of 1:26.90.
The Aggies closed the meet by annihilating the school and all-time Big 12 record in the consolation final of the 400-yard medley relay. Julia Wilkinson led the Aggies off in a near school record of 52.79 in the 100 backstroke and Alia Atkinson (Pembroke Pines, Fla.), Triin Aljand, and Christine Marshall (Newport News., Va.) never looked back, easily distancing themselves from the field in 3:33.88 (Old Big 12 record: 3:35.12). Arizona broke the NCAA and American record for the second time in the session, going 3:29.06 for first place.
Day two of the 2008 NCAA Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships will begin with preliminaries at 11 a.m.
200-Yard Freestyle Relay – Championship Final
6. (Aljand, Woods, Sommer, Jasek) 1:29.52
500-Yard Freestyle – Championship Final
3. Kristen Heiss, 4:40.03*#
200-Yard Individual Medley – Championship Final
5. Julia Wilkinson, 1:55.45*#
50-Yard Freestyle – Championship Final
5. Triin Aljand, 22.06
400-Yard Medley Relay – Consolation Final
1. (Julia Wilkinson, Alia Atkinson, Triin Aljand, Christine Marshall), 3:33.88*#
* - Texas A&M school record
# - All-time Big 12 Record