Star swimmer, 17, from small North Yorkshire village wins scholarship to one of the top universities in the USA

A determined youngster from a North Yorkshire school has won a scholarship to study at one of America's top universities - taking her one step closer to her Olympic dream.

Christa Wilson, 17, a sixth form student from Ripon Grammar School and star swimmer, will be heading to Grand Canyon University in Arizona. Photo credit: Submitted picture.

Christa Wilson, 17, a sixth form student from Ripon Grammar School, will be heading to Grand Canyon University in Arizona, and is the second star athlete from the school to be snapped up by a top US university recently.

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The swimmer, from the village of Dishforth, who is ranked in Britain’s top four for the 200m butterfly, will study a four-year chemistry degree before she plans to take a two-year post graduate course in forensic science, while also setting her sights on the 2024 Olympics.

Pictured Christa Wilson from the village of Dishforth, who is ranked in Britain’s top four for the 200m butterfly, will study a four-year chemistry degree before she plans to take a two-year post graduate course in forensic science, while also setting her sights on the 2024 Olympics. Photo credit: Submitted picture

The holder of numerous medals at national and international levels, Christa was pursued by three other US universities, who all offered full scholarships, but felt Grand Canyon was the best fit.

Ms Wilson said: “It will be amazing to train and compete in America, a thrilling experience to compete against the fastest swimmers in the world and train alongside Olympians.

"My goal is to compete in the 2024 Olympics after qualifying for this year’s Olympic trials."

As well as impressing the university with her sporting record, Christa, who learned to swim at just sixth months old, had to sit a challenging five-hour exam to secure her sought-after place.

Christa is the holder of numerous medals at national and international levels, and was pursued by three other US universities, who all offered full scholarships, but felt Grand Canyon was the best fit. Submitted photo.

The youngster, who achieved top grades in her GCSEs, also had to juggle her A-level studies in chemistry, biology and maths while maintaining her punishing training regime.

The regime consists of 3.45am wake-up calls to travel 140-mile round trips for early morning and late evening sessions in the pool every day before and after school, alongside additional gym sessions.

She also sat extra maths and English papers, with her results placing her in the top four per cent of entrants to earn a ‘top set’ place.

"It’s an extremely competitive process, often leaving athletes rejected from their dream schools," Christa explained.

Mother Kathryn Wilson added: “The whole family is extremely proud of Christa. All the years of missing social events, days out and sleep due to 4am starts has finally paid off due to her hard work.”

The Arizona-based institute will pay for the Ripon Grammar School student's fees and accommodation for four years while also covering other costs including food, sports kit and equipment and a generous personal spending allowance.

Christa, who was crowned county champion for Northumberland and Durham around 20 times, said her aim for her freshman year is to qualify for the National College Athletic Association Division 1 Swimming Championships.

“It’s the fastest swimming meet in the world,” she said.

She added that she was "looking forward" to returning home in the summer to compete at British nationals and Olympic trials.

Jonathan Webb, the headteacher for Ripon Grammar School, added: "Christa has shown real dedication over the years and this is a just reward for all those early morning starts."

Last week The Yorkshire Post reported on fellow student Mena Scatchard, 18, one of the fastest young middle-distance runners in the UK, won a scholarship to Ivy League college Princeton University in New Jersey.

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