Texas A&M Women Clean House at Big 12 Relays

LINCOLN, Nebraska, October 13. THE Texas A&M women’s swimming & diving team turned in arguably the most remarkable performance in its history by sweeping all 14 swimming events at the Big 12 Relays held at the Devaney Center Natatorium on Friday.

A&M posted a perfect 14-0 record in swimming relays against conference opponents Iowa State, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Texas. The Aggies won 13 races outright and were awarded one (the 300-yard breaststroke relay) by disqualification.

“There’s no way I expected something like this to happen coming in,” A&M head coach Steve Bultman said. “I’m very excited about how we swam. We definitely exceeded my expectations. This was a lot of fun. It’s very rewarding to see their hard work pay off in a way like this.”

A&M won the meet by a 115-87 margin over Texas. Missouri was third with 60 points followed by Kansas (51) and Iowa State/Nebraska (41).

The Aggies won many relays by a handy margin but were put to the test on both the 3 x 50-yard breaststroke and 3 x 50-yard backstroke relays by the University of Texas.

A&M grabbed the lead on the first leg of the 3 x 50 breast relay thanks to one of many amazing efforts produced on Friday by freshman Alia Atkinson (Pembroke Pines, Fla.). Atkinson, racing against former Big 12 breaststroke silver medalist Leah Avilla, got the Aggies out to a big enough lead to allow another true freshman Renee Iserman (Spring) and junior Jenni Stratton to hold off breaststroke specialist Alexi Spann and five-time Big 12 breast champion Elizabeth Tinnon of Texas.

In the 3 x 50-yard backstroke, A&M was nose-to-nose with the Longhorns for much of the race. Longhorn Connie Brown got Texas out to a half-body-length lead but that lead was slowly erased by sophomore Triin Aljand (Tallinn, Estonia). Another sophomore, Julia Wilkinson (Stratford, Ont.), hit the jets on the last 25 yards of the race to sneak by Longhorn Elaine Ferritto for a 1:17.11 to 1:17.37 win.

The A&M 200 free relay of Atkinson, Codie Hansen (Arlington), Marissa Jasek (San Antonio), and Aljand stormed to a 1:33.90 to 1:36.69 win over Texas, just missing the NCAA consideration standard.

The Aggies followed up that win with their first-ever defeat of Texas in the 400-yard medley relay. The quartet of Wilkinson, Atkinson, Christine Marshall (Newport News, Va.), and Hansen slowly edged their way into bigger and bigger leads with each leg, eventually winning the race, 3:44.10 to 3:47.05, over the Longhorns. That time marked the second NCAA consideration relay time of the meet for the Aggies.

A&M dominated one of their specialty relays, the 800-yard freestyle, much like they did last February when they set a new Big 12 record in the event. The group of Marshall, Erin Mahoney (Wichita, Kan.), Kristen Heiss (Casper, Wyo.), and Hansen won in 7:29.67, more than eight seconds ahead of Texas.

The Aggies also earned comfortable wins in the 4 x 100 IM relay (Heiss, Megan Rains, Rebecca Sturdy, Wilkinson), 3 x 50 fly relay (Aljand, Sturdy, Marshall), and the 200-400-200 IM relay (Marshall, Stratton, Wilkinson) during the afternoon session.

“We had some outstanding swims today,” Bultman said. “Alia was just outstanding. Triin, Christine, Julia, Rebecca…we just had great swims all the way through. This was definitely a true team effort.”

Freshman diver Alex Tipple (Thunder Bay, Ont.) finished sixth in the one-meter team diving relay with a score of 180. Texas won the one-meter with a score of 269.90.