Connell Hits "B" Qualifying Time for NCAA Championships, Swimming and Diving Finishes Fifth at WAC Championships

Connell Hits "B" Qualifying Time for NCAA Championships, Swimming and Diving Finishes Fifth at WAC Championships

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Northern Arizona swimmer Fi Connell won her second gold medal and qualified for the NCAA Championships on the final day of competition at the WAC Championships in the Josh Davis Natatorium on Saturday. The NAU swimming and diving team finished in fifth place with 464 points.

Connell, a freshman from Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia, swam 1:57.50 in the 200-yard backstroke, good enough for a NCAA "B" qualifying time and her second individual WAC title this weekend.  She also had a "B" qualifying time in the 100-yard backstroke.

Connell will likely not swim in the NCAA meet though despite reaching qualifying times based on the amount of swimmers across the country that reached "A" and "B" qualifying marks with faster seed times.

“Fi Connell was outstanding once again,” said head coach Andy Johns. “No one really challenged her from the start and she led wall to wall. It was great, and I am really proud of her and her efforts.

“She smashed our school record and set a pretty high standard for herself and for where our program needs to go and wants to go. She was the biggest highlight of the meet for us.”

The Lumberjacks entered Saturday in fourth-place, but slipped to fifth in the final standings behind defending champion Nevada.

In the other swimming events, NAU collected two more top eight finishes. Sophomore Kristin Jones placed seventh in the 1650-yard freestyle with a time of 17:18.58. Freshman Jaclyn Branning swam in the championship final of the 200-yard breaststroke earning a seventh-place finish in 2:20.74.

“Jackie had a breakthrough swim in the 200 breaststroke in the morning,” said Johns of Branning’s swim that was almost nine seconds better than her previous season-best. “It was a big thing for her to have those swims today.”

The diving team had four divers score in the 3-meter final, the most of any school at the WAC Championships this year. Freshman Kristy Ardavanis was tied for seventh entering the finals and finished with a bronze medal after a score of 311.50.

Juniors Taryn Harris, Lana Christensen, and Megan Collier all contributed to the NAU total as the diving team scored 57 points on Saturday.

“Diving putting four in the top eight in the 3-meter is a huge statement for Nikki (Huffman), our divers and the diving program,” Johns said. “We would not have finished where we did without them. They more than did their part this weekend.”

The diving schedule continues in two weeks at the NCAA Zone E Regionals. Ardavanis, Collier, Christensen, and Harris will represent the Lumberjacks at Zones in Houston, Texas from March 11-13.

WAC Championship Standings (Final)

1. Boise State           587
2. San Jose State 494
3. New Mexico State           487
4. Nevada 473
5. Northern Arizona 464
6. Hawai'i 392
7. San Diego 361
8. Idaho 217
9. Fresno State 199


DID YOU KNOW…Junior All-American David McNeill finished second and fellow junior Jordan Chipangama placed fifth to lead the Northern Arizona men’s cross country team to its second fourth-place finish in three years and third consecutive Top 10 finish at the 2009 NCAA Cross Country Championships.