COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The season may be over but the Texas A&M women¹s swimming & diving team is continuing to reap the benefits from its best year in school history.
The Aggies were awarded Big 12 Swimmer, Coach, and Newcomer of the Year Awards following a vote of the conference coaches this week, the conference office announced on Thursday.
Sophomore Kristen Heiss (Casper, Wyo.) was named the Big 12 Swimmer of the Year after becoming the first swimmer in Texas A&M history to qualify for three night finals at the NCAA Championships. Heiss also won Big 12 championships in both the 200-yard backstroke and 500-yard freestyle. At the NCAA Championships in Minnesota last month, Heiss finished 14th in the 500-yard freestyle, setting a new A&M school record of 4:44.11 during prelims. The following day, Heiss took 13th in the 200-yard freestyle in 1:46.59. The six-time All-American saved her best for last, taking fifth in the championship final of the 200-yard backstroke in a new all-time Big 12 record of 1:54.09. Heiss also swam legs on the Big 12 champion 800-yard freestyle relay that claimed fifth at NCAA¹s as well as the 400-yard freestyle relay that took 11th-place honors.
Heiss¹ honor marks only the second time in school history that an Aggie
woman has won the award and the first time one has done so outright.
Teammate Codie Hansen (Arlington) won a share of Big 12 Swimmer of the Year honors as a freshman last season.
Freshman Alia Atkinson (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year by the league¹s coaches. Atkinson won Big 12 titles in both the 100 and 200-yard breaststrokes this season as well as taking a third-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle. At the NCAA Championships, Atkinson won the consolation final in the 100 breast and finished 16th in the 200 breast. She also set a new A&M school record in the 100 breast in A&M¹s 174-125 State Farm Lone Star Showdown win over Texas. Atkinson lowered the 200 breast
school record to 2:10.89 in her Big 12 title victory. She was a member of the Big 12 champion 200-yard freestyle and 400-yard medley relay teams as well as the Aggie 200-yard freestyle and 200 and 400-yard medley teams that finished sixth, seventh and seventh, respectively, at the NCAA Championships.
Atkinson becomes the second straight Aggie to win Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. Sophomore Triin Aljand (Tallinn, Estonia) received the honor a year ago. Past Aggies to win the award include Tracy Evans (1997), Clara Ho (1999) and another Atkinson teammate, Rebecca Sturdy (2004).
Texas A&M head coach Steve Bultman was named the Big 12 Women¹s Swimming Coach of the Year for the second time in his career. Bultman last received the honor at the conclusion of the 2002 season.
Bultman led Texas A&M to its first-ever women¹s swimming & diving conference team championship in February. The Aggies defeated eight-time defending champion Texas in College Station, 931-930. The Aggies won 15 of the 18 total swimming events at the conference meet, surpassing the prior team record of nine set a year earlier. A&M went on to finish eighth at the NCAA Championships with a final score of 198 points both school records. The Aggies ended the dual meet season ranked a program-best No. 5 in the nation thanks to the first undefeated dual meet season in school history (9-0). In terms of dual meet winning percentage, Bultman is far and away the winningest swim coach in Texas A&M history (.786).
Bultman is the only coach in A&M history to win the women¹s Big 12 Coach of the Year Award and only the second women¹s coach ever to win conference coach of the year honors. Mel Nash won the Southwest Conference Women¹s Coach of the Year Award in 1987 and shared it again in 1992.