Aggies Earn First-Ever Top 10 Finish at NCAA Championships

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN -- The Texas A&M women’s swimming & diving team earned a school record eighth-place finish at the 2007 NCAA Championships at the University Aquatic Center on Saturday night.

Auburn overtook day two leader Arizona to win their second straight team national title and fifth in six years, 535-477. California finished third with 372.5 followed by bay area rival Stanford (333), 2005 champion Georgia (290), Texas (220), and Florida (203). The Aggies were eighth with 198 total points. Michigan (191) and Tennessee (127) rounded out the top 10.

“It’s really been a great year for our program,” A&M head coach Steve Bultman said. “There are a lot of things I’m so proud of these girls for. A year ago we only had three individual swims at night. This year we had someone swimming at night in all but three races. I’m very pleased with the direction our program is going. We’re just going to continue to get better and better.”

The Aggies were led on Saturday by sophomore Kristen Heiss’ (Casper, Wyo.) brilliant performances in the 200-yard backstroke. Heiss chopped a second off the school record during morning prelims then cut another half-second at night, finishing fifth in the championship final in 1:54.09. Heiss was in serious contention for Texas A&M’s first-ever swimming national championship coming off the final wall after a particularly impressive middle 100 yards of the race. Heiss becomes the first swimmer in Texas A&M history to qualify and score in three individual evening finals at the NCAA Championships.

The Texas A&M 400-yard freestyle relay team ended the Aggies’ record-breaking NCAA meet with a third place finish in the consolation final. The all-sophomore group of Julia Wilkinson (Stratford, Ont.), Christine Marshall (Newport News, Va.), Heiss, and Triin Aljand (Tallinn, Estonia) hit the wall in a time of 3:17.09.

Senior Meghan Nebera (Brentwood, Tenn.) ended her swimming career by taking fifth-place in the consolation final of the 200-yard butterfly. Nebera swam the second-fastest time of her life, 1:58.74 to earn the first All-American title of her career. During the morning session, Nebera set the school record in the 200 fly at 1:58.53.

Freshman Alia Atkinson (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) ended her first NCAA meet with an eighth-place finish in the consolation final of the 200-yard breaststroke. Atkinson, who scored 10 individual points for the Aggies at the meet, finished in a time of 2:15.19.

The Aggies’ eighth-place finish breaks the prior record of 11th set first by the 1985 squad and equaled last season. A&M’s final team score of 198 points annihilates the prior record of 118 set last season as well. The Aggies’ managed to earn 18 night swims at the national meet this year, surpassing the old record of eight a year ago.