OMAHA, Neb.—The wait is over for Christine Marshall (Newport News, Va.) and Texas A&M. Marshall has officially become the Aggies’ first-ever United States Olympian in the sport of swimming.
On Saturday night, the number of athletes to qualify for the U.S. team in multiple events reached a high enough number that all allowable relay legs (top six in the 100 and 200 freestyle) have been granted a spot on the American team. The U.S. is allowed 26 total athletes on its women’s Olympic swimming team.
Marshall earned her spot on the team by finishing sixth in the championship final of the 200-meter freestyle in a career-best time of 1:58.16 on Wednesday night. Marshall was also the first Aggie in school history to make a championship final at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Marshall becomes the fourth member of the current Texas A&M women’s swimming team to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games. Fellow juniors Julia Wilkinson (Stratford, Ont.) will swim a number of events for Canada as will Triin Aljand (Tallinn, Estonia) for the Estonian team. Sophomore Alia Atkinson (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) will represent her birth country of Jamaica for the second straight Olympic Games (as will Aljand for Estonia).
Kristen Heiss (Casper, Wyo.), only the second Aggie to ever make a U.S. Olympic Trials championship final, finished a roller coaster 15 days by taking fifth-place in the 200-meter backstroke in a career-best time of 2:10.18 on Saturday night. Heiss, who spent June 20-24 in a Bryan, Texas, hospital being treated for blood clots in her lungs, swam the three fastest 200-meter backstroke times of her life over the past two days after clocking the two best 200 freestyle races of her life on Tuesday.
It took an American record just to make the U.S. team in the 200 backstroke. Former Auburn Tiger Margaret Hoelzer established a new world record in the race, taking the top spot in 2:06.09. Fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Beisel, who will be the youngest member of the U.S. women’s team, also went under Hoelzer’s old American record of 2:07.16 by hitting the wall in 2:06.92.
Heiss’s fifth-place finish marked the end of easily the most successful U.S. Olympic Trials for the Texas A&M swimming program. The 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, will begin on August 8.