Long Beach, Calif. - San Jose State University swimmer Brie Marhenke sprinted a school-record 22.42 to achieve an automatic qualifier for the 2008 NCAA Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships during a time trial at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool on Sunday, March 2.
Marhenke, a senior team co-captain out of Carmichael, Calif., was a special invitee to the time trial event which followed the conclusion on Saturday, March 1, of the 2008 Pacific-10 Conference Swimming Championships. She entered with a top time in the 50 freestyle this season of 22.65, which she swam during a gold-medal performance in the championship final at the Western Athletic Conference Championship in San Antonio, Texas, on Thursday, February 21. The mark was a third NCAA consideration qualifier this season for Marhenke in the 50, but still fell just. .03 seconds short of the 22.62 NCAA automatic qualifying mark.
In order to qualify for her second NCAA meet as a Spartan, Marhenke was going to have up to three opportunities in the 50 freestyle on Sunday to gain the automatic qualifier. At approximately 11:00 a.m., with just one other swimmer in the water with her, she raced 22.42 to better her own school record and punch her ticket for Columbus, Ohio, March 20-22. With a trio of NCAA B’ cuts this season in the 100 freestyle, Marhenke also earns the right to participate in that event in Columbus. The 50 free will be held on Thursday, March 20, and the 100 on Saturday, March 22.
Marhenke produced an automatic qualifier in the 50 and a consideration qualifier in the 100 in becoming the first Spartan to advance to the NCAA Championships since Charlotte Pierce in 2000, back in 2006 in her first season at San Jose State following a transfer from Oregon State University. She narrowly missed evening finals in the 50 free, placing 17th in 22.83, and 35th in the 100 with a school-record time during prelims of 50.30, a mark she has since bettered to 50.23 in winning a fourth career individual gold medal at the WAC Championship on Saturday, February 23.
“Brie had a great race,” said her coach, Sage Hopkins, who is in his third season in charge of the Spartan program. “There were a couple of aspects (of her racing) that we needed to work on from the WAC Championship, the first being her start. She was able to hit that well. The second thing was getting out a little faster over the first five or 10 yards. She just had a great race. It all came together in the right conditions.
“This is great for our program on a number of levels. It shows the ladies on the team that they can all get there. They don’t have to swim at California, Stanford or Arizona. Spartans can get there as well. It also validates a lot of the things that we are doing in our program.”
Concluded Hopkins about expectations for Marhenke at the NCAA Championships, “We would like her to finish up with two more best times, one in the 50 and one in the 100.”
Said Marhenke about her day, “I had three B’ cuts in both of my events already this year, and so today I was actually able to get my A’ (automatic) cut in the 50. I’m just really excited, and it was my best time, so I was really happy about that as well. I’m very excited and looking forward to seeing what I can do in Ohio. Hopefully, I can better my time even more.
“I would love to get in the top 16 in the 50. That is definitely a goal. In the 100, I would like to swim a 49 (seconds).”
On the atmosphere of her race on Sunday, Marhenke added, “It was a different kind of a meet, a lot more low key. There were only two people in my event, just me and one other girl. I raced myself, not the people next to me. It was a whole different atmosphere and feeling than at (the WAC Championship). But I had a good week of practice (after the WAC meet) and I was mentally ready today.”