SAN ANTONIO, Texas – After placing third with a school record time of 1:41.93 in the 200 medley relay, the NAU quartet of Emma Lowther, Rachel Palmer, Chalene Dirks-Ryan and Krista Maier won the 800 free relay in 7:18.76 on the opening day of the WAC Swimming & Diving Championships. The Lumberjacks are in second place among the eight conference teams after the first day of competition, trailing San Jose State by just two points.
"It was a great first night for us," said NAU head coach Andy Johns. "To get third in the 200 medley relay was a bit of a surprise and winning the 800 free relay was a great accomplishment, as it was the first relay we've won at the meet. All of our time trials were great as well, so we're in a great position and I think everyone has a lot of confidence for tomorrow's events."
Lowther opened the 800 free relay with a school record 200 free split of 1:48.33, breaking the previous record of 1:50.17 set by Vivian Landeck at the conference meet last season. Palmer, Dirks-Ryan and Maier maintained the Lumberjack advantage, with Maier touching ahead of the final San Jose State swimmer by .23 seconds. The time of 7:18.76 surpassed the NCAA 'B' standard by more than four seconds.
"I'm extremely happy and proud of my whole team," said Lowther. "I'm happy to be at sea level and seeing all my hard work pay off, and I'm excited for the rest of the week."
NAU opened the meet with a program-record finish of 1:41.93 in the 200 medley relay, surpassing the NCAA 'B' standard time and besting the previous school record of 1:43.18 set in 2008. Junior Fi Connell opened with a 25.38 split in the backstroke, followed by a 28.27 breaststroke time by sophomore Jordan Burnes, the fastest 50 breast split in program history. Palmer followed with the butterfly and junior Kelsey Loy closed with the free to give NAU the third place finish.
The WAC Championships continue Thursday morning with preliminary 50 and 500 free and 200 IM swimming and 1-meter diving.
WAC Championships Standings - Through Two Events
1. San Jose State - 74
2. Northern Arizona - 72
3. New Mexico State - 64
4. Hawaii - 62
5. Idaho - 56
6. Fresno State - 50
7. Nevada - 46
8. North Dakota - 26