COLLEGE STATION, Texas, November 19. THE fifth-ranked Texas A&M women's swimming & diving team is in first place after two of three days at the Art Adamson Invitational being held at the Student Rec Center Natatorium this weekend.
A&M holds a 907.5 to 723 lead over No. 10 Michigan. No. 7 SMU is in third with 443 points while LSU is in fourth with 283.
The Aggies, who have yet to taste defeat this season, improved on a blazing first day by breaking a pair of school records and surpassing the NCAA automatic qualifying barrier an eye-opening nine times on Saturday evening. More than half the entire A&M team posted individual NCAA consideration performances on Saturday alone.
In a night of superlative performances, perhaps the most impressive came in the 100-yard butterfly as both sophomore Triin Aljand (Tallinn, Estonia) and senior Rebecca Sturdy (Anacortes, Wash.) smashed the old school record of 54.07 set by Aljand a year ago in winning the Big 12 title. Aljand cut nearly a full second off her old mark with a winning time of 53.24 to surpass the automatic qualifying standard by over half a second. Sturdy, who turned in an incredible split of 23.96 on the fly leg of the medley relay, also came in way under the old record, posting an automatic qualifier of 53.66 despite inhaling a deep breath of water on one of her last few strokes.
The Aggies were equally as impressive in the 200-yard freestyle as three A&M swimmers posted NCAA automatic qualifying times. Sophomore Christine Marshall (Newport News, Va.) led the maroon and white barrage with a lifetime-best of 1:46.36 to finish ahead of fellow soph Kristen Heiss (Casper, Wyo.) who also turned in a lifetime-best at 1:46.80. Julia Wilkinson (Stratford, Ont.) followed up her fabulous Friday with a fourth-place lifetime-best time of 1:46.94 to put three A&M swimmers amongst the top four finishers.
Wilkinson wasn't done there though, as she took her second individual win in as many days with an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 53.79 in the 100-yard backstroke. Wilkinson's time ranks No. 2 in A&M history. Triin Aljand finished second in a near-automatic qualifier of 54.64.
Junior Jenni Stratton (Portland, Ore.) set a new A&M school record in the 400-yard individual medley thanks to a remarkable second half comeback that nearly garnered her the top spot in the race. Stratton recorded an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 4:15.58, finishing behind only Big 10 champion Justine Mueller of Michigan (4:15.15) and two-time Big West champ Ja-Neil Bragg of Pacific (4:15.21).
Freshman Alia Atkinson (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) kept her unbeaten streak in the 100-yard breaststroke alive as she cruised to a win in an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 1:00.90. SMU's Tamara Sambrailo finished second, more than two full seconds behind Atkinson in 1:03.09.
The Aggies just missed the automatic qualifying standard of 1:39.49 in the 200-yard medley relay after posting time of 1:39.89. The group of Aljand, Atkinson, Marshall, and Wilkinson also missed the school record by just .08.
A&M closed the second day much as it spent most of the evening session, recording an NCAA automatic qualifying performance. The group of Erin Mahoney (Wichita, Kan.), Heiss, Marshall, and Wilkinson recorded a time of 7:10.00 in the 800-yard freestyle relay, the second-fastest in school history, to top second-place SMU by almost five seconds.
Other Aggies to record NCAA consideration performances on Saturday were Melissa Hain, 400 IM, 4:17.77; Emily Neal, 400 IM, 4:19.60; Marshall, 100 fly, 54.16; Megan Rains, 100 fly, 56.17; Codie Hansen, 200 free, 1:48.45; Mahoney, 200 free, 1:48.14; Marissa Jasek, 200 free, 1:48.37; Beth McCullough, 200 free, 1:49.32; Sturdy, 100 back, 55.58; Heiss, 100 back, 55.77; Neal, 100 back, 55.96; Kara Morelli, 100 back, 56.00; and the A&M ‘B' 800 free relay team of Rains, Jasek, McCullough and Hansen, 7:19.59.
The third and final day of the Art Adamson Invitational will begin with preliminaries at 9:30 a.m. Finals are scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Admission is free