Team Santa Monica swimmer Andi Murez captured her first big win in a Senior Southern California Swimming event with a victory in the 200-meter freestyle at the 2007 Winter Invitational, which was held Saturday and Sunday, December 8th and 9th, at the Commerce Aquatorium in the City of Commerce, said Team Santa Monica coaches.

Following a disappointing preliminary swim that earned her an eighth-place seed for the finals, Murez took off from the start and never looked back in the finals, says an observer, winning the race by over a second, Team Santa Monica coaches said. Her time of 1:48.59 is a personal best by almost three seconds.

When asked how it felt to win her first Winter Invitational event, Murez replied, “It was so unexpected. I felt great and was thrilled.”

The Winter Invitational is considered one of the most competitive meets in the area as it draws teams from Palo Alto to San Diego that are looking to post fast short-course times before the long-course season begins in January, according to Team Santa Monica.

With 2008 being an Olympic year, all elite swimmers have increased their level of focus and are looking to make the team going to Beijing, team coaches said.

Murez has not yet qualified for the Olympic swimming trials to be held in Omaha at the end of June, but with continued results like the Winter Invitational, she is on the right track to achieving those time standards, coaches said.

Team Santa Monica, a nonprofit swimming club that serves Santa Monica and its surrounding areas, trains daily at the Santa Monica Swim Center.

Information, www.teamsanta