FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The series of event breakdowns for the 2013-14 Northern Arizona swimming & diving team concludes today with previews of the individual medley and the team's divers.
This is the third part of a three-part season outlook with NAU's first regular season dual meet at home versus New Mexico this Saturday, Oct. 26.
Oct. 21 - Individual Medley/Diving
Senior Rachel Palmer tends to lead the way in the individual medleys during dual meets, but it was a pair of freshmen who broke both the 200 and 400 IM records last year at the conference meet.
Sophomore Ellie Morrissey notched her second NCAA B time (with the 100 free being the other) in the 200 IM, finishing second in the WAC with a school-record time of 2:01.00. Meanwhile sophomore Kendall Brown broke the school record with a B standard time of 4:17.46 in the 400 IM. Palmer finished fourth in the 400 IM with a B standard time of her own in addition to her seventh place finish in the 200.
Palmer and senior Jordan Burnes both own top-five times in the 200 and 400 IM. Senior Stirling Smith, juniors Meagan Morrison and sophomores Monica Pruett and Eva Pold each qualified for the finals in at least one of the two individual medley events at the WAC Championships bringing the NAU total to seven swimmers that advanced past the preliminaries. Baker has also shown to be capable in swimming the 400 IM.
"We have a lot of people training in the IM right now," said head coach Andy Johns. "Rachel is so solid in dual meets but last year at the conference meet, Ellie turned out to be our fastest 200 IM-er and Kendall set the school record in the 400. Again, we've got good depth here."
Although the Lumberjacks lose Kristy Ardavanis, the conference champion on 1-meter last season and one of the top divers in school history, they do return both senior Gwen Smithberg and sophomore Chelsea Jackson who both earned multiple All-WAC honors themselves among four returning divers in all. Smithberg shattered her own school record on platform en route to winning the gold with a NCAA Zone Meet qualifying score of 261.10. She earned all-conference honors on all three boards with a fourth place finish on 3-meter and a fifth place finish on 1-meter. Jackson earned first team honors on 1-meter with a third place finish and then finished fifth on platform with the fifth-highest score in program history of 211.75.
Both divers made their first appearances at the NCAA Zone E Diving Championship and came away with top-20 finishes. Jackson finished 15th on 1-meter and Smithberg finished 19th on platform.
Diving Coach Nikki Huffman also has the services of senior Jane Wakefield and sophomore Carlye Townsend as well as freshman Alexa Geiger to round out her group of divers for the 2013-14 season. Wakefield brings a wealth of experience to a fairly young unit while Townsend advanced to the B final on both platform and 3-meter at the WAC Championships. Geiger begins her first season at NAU after a fantastic high school career that includes winning the AAU National 3-meter synchronized diving championship in 2012.
"Kristy is a tough loss because she knew how to mentally bring it every meet but I really think Chelsea and Gwen are starting out so much further than even Kristy was last year," Huffman said. "I expect those two to take off. They're all starting close to where they were a few weeks before conference and Lexi Geiger has a lot of talent. We're excited for the season."