Irvine, Calif. - Former San Jose State University swimming standout and current Spartan assistant coach Ashley Vrieze achieved a qualifying mark for the 2008 USA Olympic Team Trials in the 100-meter backstroke on the third and final day of the Speedo Grand Challenge last Sunday, May 25.
The three-day, long-course-meter event began on Friday, May 23, at the Woollett Aquatic Center.
Vrieze, who just completed her first year on head coach Sage Hopkins’ staff in 2007-08 after a stellar senior season in the water for the Spartans in 2006-07, timed 1:03.48 during morning preliminaries of her specialty, the 100 backstroke, to shatter her previous long-course best of 1:04.81 and get under the qualifying standard of 1:04.59, both by over a full second. It was the fastest time out of 86 competitors in prelims. In the four-person championship final at night, she lowered that mark even further to 1:03.41 in winning the event by .36 seconds over former Stanford University All-American Brooke Bishop (1:03.77). Vrieze’s top mark now ties her for 44th on USA Swimming’s Olympic Trials chart.
Vrieze, a native of Arcata, Calif., and the school record-holder in all three backstroke distances (50, 100, 200), will join Brie Marhenke to form a two-person San Jose State University representation at the 2008 USA Olympic Team Trials, to be held in Omaha, Neb., June 29-July 6. Marhenke, a native of Carmichael, Calif., who completed her three-year Spartan career this past season as arguably the greatest performer in program history, had previously qualified in the 50-meter freestyle by sprinting 26.39 at the Stanford University Invitational Grand Prix on Saturday, April 5. That time ranks in a tie for 84th on the USA Swimming qualifier list.
In Irvine, Vrieze also placed third in the 200 backstroke on Saturday, May 24. She turned in the third-fastest mark during prelims, of 2:20.71, before timing 2:20.83 for third out of four championship finalists. Stephanie Wei of Santa Clara Swim Club (SCSC) won in 2:17.48. Vrieze was swimming for De Anza Cupertino Aquatics (DACA).
Vrieze made it back for an evening swim in her other event at the meet as well, sprinting 27.57, the 18th-fastest time, during morning prelims of the 50 freestyle on Friday, May 23. In the B consolation final at night, she placed fifth in the race and 17th overall in the event in 27.19.
Swimming for Santa Clara Swim Club, Marhenke had the 14th fastest time in prelims of the 50, in 27.31. She placed ahead of Vrieze in the B consolation final, winning the race and finishing 13th overall in 26.43, just .04 seconds off her best. In the 100 free on Sunday, she posted the seventh best prelim time of 58.02, sprinting out in 27.89 over the first 50 meters and coming back in 30.13, but opting to not compete in the A consolation final at night.
Current Spartans competing at the meet in the 100 free included Lauren Mar (47th, 1:01.35), Meghan McCurley (48th, 1:01.40), Erin Garcia (77th, 1:02.16), Tarolyn Robertson (81st, 1:02.21), Caitlin Macky (98th, 1:02.81), Julia Koch (114th, 1:03.21), Linzy Warkentin (135th, 1:04.34) and Ashley Ladd (146th, 1:05.67). In the 50 free, Spartan participants were McCurley (40th, 28.43), Mar (42nd, 28.46), Robertson (47th, 28.59) and Ladd (93rd, 29.93).
In the 100 back, Mar was 25th in 1:09.10, Rudie Guerrero 46th in 1:10.99 and Katey Nelson 60th in 1:12.13. In the 200 free, Koch was 66th in 2:13.97, Garcia 100th in 2:18.31 and McCurley 107th in 2:19.29. Koch was 37th in the 400 in 4:42.38, with Nelson in 53rd in 4:50.76.
Nelson made the B consolation final in her best event, the 200 back, turning in the 18th fastest time in the morning of 2:28.55. At night, she was fourth in her race and 16th overall in 2:28.60.
Mar (41st, 2:32.49) and Guerrero (59th, 2:37.69) also competed in the 200 back, while Garcia (68th, 2:36.89) and Warkentin (80th, 2:45.52) swam the 200 individual medley on Friday.
On Saturday morning, Robertson (38th, 1:07.02), Macky (78th, 1:08.78), Warkentin (92nd, 1:09.87) and Guerrero (102nd, 1:10.56) all participated in prelims of the 100 butterfly. Macky placed 38th in the 200 breast in 2:53.34.