COLUMBUS, OH --The Texas A&M women’s swimming & diving easily turned in the best morning session in its NCAA Championship history on day two at McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion on Friday morning.
The Aggies qualified more swimmers for finals this evening than any team in the meet with the exception of only first-place Arizona. A&M will also have someone swimming in the championship final of all but one race, including both relays, this evening as well.
The 200 medley relay team set the tone in a big way for the Aggies in the first race. After having the 400-yard medley relay relegated to the consolation final the day before, the Aggies were bound and determined to not let that happen again in the 200 medley as they torched the school and all-time Big 12 records and momentarily set the Ohio State pool record.
The group of Julia Wilkinson (Stratford, Ont.), Alia Atkinson (Pembroke Pines, Fla.), Triin Aljand (Tallinn, Estonia), and Sarah Woods (Birmingham, Ala.) won the second of three heats in 1:37.81 which ranks them as the No. 2 team in the entire field behind only Arizona, who won both relay events on Thursday night in American record times. The old Big 12 record of 1:38.36 was set by the University of Texas at the 2007 Big 12 Championships in College Station. The former A&M school record of 1:38.68 was also set in that very same race a year ago.
The Aggies showed the most depth of any team in the meet in the 200-yard freestyle, qualifying four swimmers for evening finals, including two in the championship heat. Julia Wilkinson qualified third with an A&M and all-time Big 12 record time of 1:44.86 while teammate Christine Marshall (Newport News, Va.) was right behind her both in the heat and the overall standings at 1:44.94. Kristen Heiss (Casper, Wyo.) swam a lifetime best of 1:45.59 to finish 10th in qualifying while Codie Hansen also had a lifetime best, hitting the wall in 1:46.09 to take 15th. Senior Erin Mahoney (Wichita, Kan.) ended her collegiate career by smashing her lifetime best of 1:47.09 by going 1:46.27 to finish 17th.
Junior Triin Aljand, swimming next to defending NCAA champ Dana Vollmer in heat seven, eliminated the Big 12 and A&M records in the 100-yard butterfly, becoming the first Aggie to break the 52-second barrier. Aljand will enter the championship final ranked fourth with a new career best time of 51.94.
Sophomore Alia Atkinson broke through to qualify for her first NCAA championship final by swimming a season best of 1:00.73 in the 100-yard breaststroke.
Two-time Big 12 400 IM champ Melissa Hain (Kingwood) squeaked her way into the first NCAA championship final of her career with a lifetime and all-time Big 12 record time of 4:11.02. Senior Jenni Stratton (Portland, Ore.) finished in eighth and last place in the final heat of the 400 IM in 4:13.51 but fortunately was in, by far and away, the fastest heat of the event which meant her efforts claimed the 16th and final evening spot.
Friday’s finals session is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
200-Yard Medley Relay – Preliminaries
2. (Julia Wilkinson, Alia Atkinson, Triin Aljand, Sarah Woods), 1:37.81*#
400-Yard Individual Medley -- Preliminaries
8. Melissa Hain, 4:11.02*#
16. Jenni Stratton, 4:13.51
22. Emily Neal, 4:15.02
100-Yard Butterfly – Preliminaries
4. Triin Aljand, 51.94*#
200-Yard Freestyle – Preliminaries
3. Julia Wilkinson, 1:44.86*#
4. Christine Marshall, 1:44.94
10. Kristen Heiss, 1:45.59
15. Codie Hansen, 1:46.09
17. Erin Mahoney, 1:46.27
43. Marissa Jasek, 1:47.84
100-Yard Breaststroke – Preliminaries
7. Alia Atkinson, 1:00.73
100-Yard Backstroke -- Preliminaries
34. Emily Neal, 55.11
42. Sarah Woods, 56.20
* - Texas A&M School Record
# - All-time Big 12 Record