OMAHA, Neb.- Texas A&M junior Christine Marshall (Newport News, Va.) made Texas A&M swimming history on Tuesday night, becoming the first Aggie swimmer, male or female, to ever qualify for a championship final at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Marshall, who took fourth place in the second of two semifinal heats of the 200-meter freestyle, qualified in a tie for seventh for Wednesday’s championship final that will be aired live on the USA Network at 7 p.m. CST. Tomorrow’s top two swimmers automatically qualify to swim the 200 free at the 2008 Olympic Games while, potentially, each of the top six finishers in tomorrow’s final could be named to the U.S. Olympic 800-meter freestyle relay team.
“She swam pretty much like I was hoping,” A&M head coach Steve Bultman said. “She came back really well in her semifinal race. She didn’t finish as well in the morning race – I’m sure there were some nerves involved -- but had a great second half tonight. She has put herself in a great position.”
Marshall began her day by swimming the fifth-fastest time in the 103-woman field during 200 free preliminaries on Tuesday morning. Her prelim time of 1:59.31 was, for the moment, the second-fastest of her career and earned her a spot next to 2004 U.S. Olympic star Katie Hoff in Tuesday evening’s semi-finals.
In her semi-final heat, Marshall finished in fourth place behind Hoff, 2008 NCAA champion Caroline Burckle of Florida, and Kim Vandenberg, the 2007 world championship silver medalist in the 200 butterfly. Marshall’s time of 1:58.66, for the second time in the same day, was the second-fastest of her career.
Despite grabbing one of the last two championship final slots, the distance between third-place qualifier Julia Smit and seventh-place qualifiers Marshall and Kara Lynn Joyce – a 9-time individual NCAA sprint champion and 2004 U.S. Olympian -- was a mere .18 seconds. In fact, Marshall’s personal best time of 1:58.36, which she swam just over three weeks ago in Austin, would rank her third heading into tomorrow’s championship final.
“In all past Olympics, the top six finishers in the 200 free were named to the team,” Bultman said. “That is no guarantee. Only the top four are 100 percent assured of a spot, but in all past cases, the top six have gone on to the Olympics.”
Marshall will attempt to become Texas A&M’s first-ever United States Olympian in the sport of swimming on Wednesday night shortly after 7 p.m.
A&M Olympic Trials Results (to date):
Women’s 100 Butterfly (138 competitors)
91. Lauren Clifford, 1:02.27
Women’s 400 Individual Medley (82 competitors)
32. Melissa Hain, 4:51.52
33. Emily Neal, 4:52.00
Women’s 100 Backstroke (122 competitors)
69. Emily Neal, 1:03.94
96. Megan Latone, 1:04.60
Men’s 200 Freestyle (83 competitors)
73. Ryan Latone, 1:53.65
Women’s 400 Freestyle (86 competitors)
52. Codie Hansen, 4:19.21
Women’s 200 Freestyle (Prelims; 103 competitors)
5. Christine Marshall, 1:59.31
23. Kristen Heiss, 2:00.54
25. Erin Mahoney, 2:00.75
54. Codie Hansen, 2:02.25
Women’s 200 Freestyle (Semifinals)
7. Christine Marshall, 1:58.66
Women’s 200 Individual Medley (110 competitors)
35. Melissa Hain, 2:18.39
61. Jenni Stratton, 2:19.57
95. Erin Mahoney 2:22.14