A TALENTED swimmer is one step closer to her Olympic dream after winning a scholarship at a top US university.

Christa Wilson, who will be heading to Grand Canyon University in Arizona, is the second star athlete from Ripon Grammar School to be snapped up by a top American institution.

Earlier this month it was revealed that Mena Scatchard, one of the fastest young middle-distance runners in the UK, won a funded place at Princeton University.

Christa, 17, is ranked in Britain’s top four for the 200m butterfly and will be studying chemistry at the Arizona university which is renowned for its exceptional sports teams.

She has also firmly set her sights on the 2024 Olympics.

She 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.

“Grand Canyon will provide the best facilities, training programme and team dynamics for me over the next four years, allowing me to swim and study to the highest possible standards."

As well as her tuition fees, the university will pay for Christa’s accommodation and all other costs including food, sports kit and equipment, with the bonus of a generous personal spending allowance.

Mum Kathryn said Christa, who learned to swim at sixth months old, had demonstrated great dedication since she began competing at the age of nine. She said: “The whole family are 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.”

She added: “I would like to thank the staff at RGS for supporting Christa both academically and for her swimming throughout her time at the school.”

Crowned county champion for Northumberland and Durham around 20 times, Christa says her aspiration for her freshman year is to qualify for National College Athletic Association Division 1 Swimming Championships.

She explained how she juggled her A-level studies in chemistry, biology and maths to prepare for a challenging five-hour exam to secure her sought-after Grand Canyon place.

"It’s an extremely competitive process, often leaving athletes rejected from their dream schools,” she said.

Alongside this, she maintained her punishing training regime, consisting 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.

Christa, from Dishforth, who achieved top grades in her GCSEs, plans to take a two-year post graduate course in forensic science following her four-year chemistry degree.

A member of the Northumberland and Durham Elite Training Programme and the Borough of Stockton Swim Scheme, Christa said she is excited about the next stage of her journey.