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Aggies Invade Northwest for Swimming Talent -- May 17, 2004

COLLEGE STATION, Tex, May 16. TEXAS A&M Head Women’s Swimming Coach Steve Bultman announced the signing of three talented swimmers from Oregon and Washington to letters-of-intent on Monday.

The Aggies will be welcoming Chelsea Helgason (Olympia, Wash.), Megan Rains (Puyallup, Wash.) and Jenni Stratton (Portland, Ore.) to the fold for the upcoming 2004-05 season.

"We are very excited about this class, as we know they will make a big impact on our program," Bultman said. "These girls, when combined with the returning swimmers and divers already at Texas A&M, will help form quite possibly the deepest and most talented roster we’ve ever had in Aggieland."

The A&M women’s swimming & diving team finished 16th at the NCAA Championships this past season and will merge nine All-Americans to the quality talent being brought in by Bultman.

Chelsea Helgason is an up-and-coming student-athlete from Olympia, Wash., where she swims for Bob Pease and the Evergreen Swim Club. She competed for Capital High School, the 2001 Washington State champions, and coach Burke Anderson. While there she set school records in the 50 yard free (23.96), 100 yard free (51.90), 100 yard breast (1:05.05), 200 IM (2:06.94), 200 free relay and 400 free relay.

"Chelsea is a natural leader and a good student," Bultman said. "She was recognized as an Academic All-American by the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association (NISCA). Chelsea’s strengths are diverse, as she will contribute in the 50 and 100 freestyle, the backstroke, the breaststroke, and the IM. Our girls really improve in our program, and we feel that her best swimming is ahead of her."

"I chose Texas A&M for the outstanding people, the great dorms, and a strong, well-established and supported swimming program," Helgason said.

Megan Rains was a major contributor to Governor John R. Rogers Washington state championship team where she competed for coach Heather Hoskins. Megan also swims for Tacoma Swim Club and coach Jay Benner. Megan is an Olympic trials qualifier and was a top 16 finalist at the 2004 Spring National Championships in the 100-meter butterfly. She also finished 3rd in the 5K open water swim at the 2003 Summer National Championships. Megan is an 11-time high school All-American, an 11-time state champion (200 free, 200 IM, 100 back, 100 free, 200 medley relay and 400 free relay), and she holds five school records (100 free, 200 free, 500 free, 100 back, 200 IM). Megan was awarded the Washington State Distinguished Scholastic Individual Award, and is a member of the National Honor Society and the National Forensic League. She has been a motivational speaker for Pacific Northwest Swimming camps, and she also enjoys competing in triathlons.

"Megan owns career best times of 50.69 (100 yard free), 1:48.77 (200 yard free), 54.72 (100 yard fly), 1:01.65 (100 meter fly), 2:01.84 (200 yard fly), 56.44 (100 yard back), 2:01.88 (200 yard back), 2:03.57 (200 yard IM)," Bultman said. "Obviously, she is going to make an immediate impact on the team. We are excited about her swimming abilities, her success as a student, and her leadership capabilities. We know she will be an outstanding addition to the team."

"I remember reading a quote about Texas A&M: ‘From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it; from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it,’ Rains said. "That’s exactly how I felt when I visited Texas A&M – it had this aura about it that I hadn’t felt at any other school. I loved the plethora of traditions and the warmth of the people. I know Texas A&M will be a place I can happily call home."

In Jenni Stratton, A&M lands one of the top swimmers coming out of the state of Oregon this year. Jenni is a six-time All-American and a five-time state champion for David Douglas High School where she holds school records in the 100, 200, and 500 freestyle. She was a 2003 junior national champion in the 200 free and the 200 IM. Jenni was honored twice as the conference female swimmer of the year, was awarded the NISCA-Speedo Oregon High School Swimmer of the Year Award, and is an Academic All-American. She swims for David Douglas Swim Club coached by her father, Burt Stratton. Jenni’s greatest strengths lie in the freestyle events. She comes to A&M with bests of 1:49.88 in the 200 yard freestyle, 2:04.60 in the 200 meter freestyle, 4:20.16 in the 400 meter freestyle, 4:51.34 in the 500 yard freestyle, and 9:05.85 in the 800 meter freestyle. She is also strong in the 200 yard IM (2:05.52), 400 yard IM (4:24.22), and 200 yard breaststroke (2:17.88).

"Jenni has competed at the national level for several years, so she helps bring more experience to the team," Bultman said. "We are excited to have her join us, as she will contribute right away in many areas. She really enjoyed her visit here, and we look forward to her joining the team and having the opportunity to work with her."

"At Texas A&M we talk about Building Champions, and we know that we will continue to build a championship caliber team with the addition of these young ladies," Bultman said. "In addition, this group is not only talented in the pool, but they are all outstanding people. All three of these girls were their high school team captains, and we feel that leadership is so important in contributing to the team chemistry and feeling of family. These girls are excited to be a part of our program, and we will be excited to come to the pool each day to coach them as a part of our enthusiastic and dedicated team."

These spring signees join two student-athletes who signed with the Aggies in the fall, Brittany Lentz from Houston and diver Mari-Michelle Musselman from San Antonio.