COLLEGE STATION -- The Texas A&M women’s swimming & diving team began its season with an all-encompassing win over both North Texas and Rice at the Student Rec Center Natatorium on Friday evening.
A&M (2-0) finished first and second in all 14 races and both diving events en route to 161-92 and 187-103 wins over Rice (1-1) and North Texas, respectively. The two victories pull A&M head coach Steve Bultman into a tie with Mel Nash as the winningest women’s swim coach in Aggie history. Bultman has posted an 81-20 record in just over nine years at the helm of the program.
“I didn’t realize until last week that that was the case,” A&M head coach Steve Bultman said. “It’s a tribute to all the girls that I’ve coached the past nine or so and the success we’ve been able to achieve together. As far as today went, I was very pleased with how the girls stepped and raced. To swim that well this early in the year is very exciting and makes us all very pleased.”
A&M senior and Olympian Triin Aljand (Tallinn, Estonia) was in mid-season form, winning a pair of events and leading off the first-place 200-yard medley relay. Aljand nearly broke the A&M pool record in the 50 freestyle with a dominating 22.65 second victory. Her time cleared the NCAA consideration standard of 22.80 as well. She also grabbed in a win in an event she very rarely swims, the 200 backstroke (2:02.02).
A&M junior and Olympian Alia Atkinson (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) was one of four Aggies to win a pair of events. Atkinson just missed an NCAA consideration performance in the 100-yard breaststroke with a 1:02.46 win then impressed with a 50.77 100 free win just three races later.
Junior Melissa Hain (Kingwood) also won a pair of races in the season opener for the Aggies. Hain rolled to an impressive win in one of the Aggies’ deepest races, the 200 freestyle, hitting the wall in 1:50.16. Hain also won the 200 IM in 2:03.93, nearly seven seconds faster than her time in that same race almost exactly a year ago to the day.
Junior diving transfer Haley Haynes (The Woodlands) paid immediate dividends for the Aggies as she swept both boards in her A&M debut. Haynes, who came to A&M from Iowa State, captured the one-meter with a score of 255.97 while leading a 1-2-3 Aggie finish on the three-meter after piling up a winning total of 268.80.
Seniors Codie Hansen (Arlington) and Christine Marshall (Newport News, Va.) each earned distance freestyle wins in the first meet of their final collegiate season. Hansen jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, posting a solid early season time of 10:07.37 in the 1,000 free while Marshall did likewise in a lifetime best of 4:52.42 in the 500 free.
Junior Emily Neal (Plano) earned a win in the 100 backstroke, leading a 1-2-3-4-5 A&M finish. Neal hit the wall head of her four teammates in a time of 56.63.
Sophomore Casey Hurrell-Zitelman (San Antonio) outpaced fellow sophomore Melanie Dodds for her first-ever collegiate win in the 200-yard breaststroke. Hurrell-Zitelman finished in 2:21.15 in a race she rarely contests.
The Aggies also had a pair of freshmen step up and earn wins in their first collegiate meet. Freshmen Lauren Clifford (Pollock Pines, Calif.) and Rita Medrano (Aguascalientes, Mexico) swept both butterfly races with at or near lifetime best performances. Clifford and Medrano went 1-2 in the 100 fly with Clifford winning in 55.79 while they reversed places in the 200 fly with Medrano winning in 2:02.78.
The Aggies opened the meet with a 1-2 finish in the 200 medley relay. The group of Triin Aljand, Alia Atkinson, Christine Marshall, and Sarah Woods (Birmingham, Ala.) won the 200 medley in 1:42.32, just shy of an NCAA consideration performance.
A&M closed the meet with a 1-2-3-4 finish in the 200 free relay. All four relays finished within .55 of each other with the group of Codie Hansen, Leslie Dlugopolski (Mequon, Wis.), Emily Neal, and Maria Sommer (Brenham) taking the top spot in 1:36.00
The Aggies will be back in action on Thursday, Oct. 23, when they take on Big 12 rivals Kansas and Missouri in Lawrence at 6 p.m.