COLLEGE STATION—The Texas A&M women’s swimming & diving team spent practically the entire year ranked eighth in the country and that’s exactly where they finished following the completion of the 2009 NCAA Championships in their home pool at the Student Rec Center.
The Aggies scored 186 points, to earn their third straight top 10 finish. California, who finished one spot behind the Aggies a year ago, captured their first ever NCAA Championship following a winner-take-all showdown with Georgia in the final event of the meet. Defending champion Arizona was third with 389 points, followed by Stanford (312.5), Texas (307), Auburn (281.5), and Florida (239.5).
“I was very pleased,” A&M head coach Steve Bultman said. “We had some injuries this year and to still get eighth place at the NCAA meet is a great accomplishment. It’s definitely not what we set out looking for before the season but I was proud of the way we fought and overcame our setbacks. I’m very pleased with where we finished.”
Junior Alia Atkinson (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) turned in the Aggies’ top performance of the meet, giving Olympic gold medalist and USC senior Rebecca Soni a run for her money in her signature event, becoming just the second A&M swimmer to ever take an individual silver medal at the NCAA Championships. Atkinson swam the two fastest 200-yard breaststrokes of her career, and in A&M history, recording a time of 2:07.82 in prelims then speeding to the seventh-fastest time in NCAA history, 2:06.99, in the final. Atkinson is now the third-fastest 200 breaststroker in NCAA history behind Soni and Tara Kirk, who won NCAA Swimmer of the Meet honors the last time A&M hosted the NCAA Championships in 2004.
“That was an outstanding race and it was really fun to see,” Bultman said. “That’s almost a three-second time drop in the last year. She’s just gotten better and better, particularly in the 200 (breast). She had a very good third 50 and was coming up on Soni in the last 50.”
A&M’s four seniors that qualified for the meet and helped elevate the Aggie program to the elite level during their time wearing the maroon and white finished off their careers as a unit, taking seventh in the 400-yard freestyle relay. Christine Marshall (Newport News, Va.), Marissa Jasek (San Antonio), Codie Hansen (Arlington), and Triin Aljand (Tallinn, Estonia) hit the wall in 3:15.05, the fourth-fastest time in school history. Marshall led off the group of in 48.55, ending her collegiate career with her fastest 100-yard freestyle time ever.
Triin Aljand ended her collegiate career by earning the 22nd and 23rd All-Americans titles of an unmatched four year run by any women’s swimmer in A&M history. In addition to anchoring the seventh-place relay, Aljand earned an eighth-place finish in the 100-yard freestyle, clocking a time of 48.90. Aljand ends her illustrious career with the 23 All-American titles and 16 Big 12 titles, both A&M all-time records.