TUSCALOOSA, Alabama, December 1. AFTER a standout morning that saw four Crimson Tide swimmers earn their way to this spring's NCAA Championships, the evening session of the Alabama Classic, being held at the Alabama Aquatic Center this weekend, saw a fifth Tide swimmer punch their ticket to nationals.
"We're just continuing to roll this weekend," head coach Eric McIlquham said. "With such a young team, we purposely put together this meet with an eye toward challenging our athletes with outstanding competition and they have responded really well."
This morning, during the preliminaries of the Classic's second day, the Tide quartet of Ida Persson, Vanessa Von der Heyde, Brooke Baldi and Erin Sparks shattered the school record in the 200 freestyle relay, touching at 1:30.81 bettering the old mark, set in 2001, by more than a second.
"Crushing the school record by more than a second and making an automatic NCAA cut is a tremendous boost for this young, young team," McIquham said.
The Tide's time earned the foursome an automatic NCAA Championship berth, bettering the automatic standard by two tenths of a second. Persson, a freshman, led off with a 23.22, which makes her the fifth fastest 50 freestyler in Tide history. Sparks, a senior, finished things off with a blistering 22.38 anchor leg. The previous record was held by Lisa Andersson, Marcy Warriner, Kelly Coellner and Kate Meriam.
And then, during finals, sophomore Agustina de Giovanni blasted the field of the 400-meter IM, earning Alabama's fifth NCAA bid with an automatic cut. She posted a 4:51.74 touching the wall eight seconds ahead of second place. She was also second in the 100m breaststroke with a 1:12.38.
Elsewhere during prelims, Persson earned an NCAA "B" standard in the 100 butterfly, turning in a 55.36, which ranks her eighth all-time for the Tide in that event.
Junior Chris Perry posted a 57.65 in the 100m backstroke, taking second place and earning an NCAA "B" cut in the process while in other finals action, freshman Catalin Cosma and junior Alin Mihalca went one-two in the 200m freestyle with Cosma coming out on top with a 1:53.17 and Mihalca posting a 1:54.37 for second.
Special thanks to Alabama for contributing this report.