FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona swimming & diving team is set to embark on its 2013-14 season with its first official dual meet on Saturday when it hosts New Mexico at 11 a.m. at the Wall Aquatic Center. The meet will be the first of three home regular season dual meets for the Lumberjacks this season and all home meets are free for all fans to attend.
Saturday's meet will serve as the Lumberjacks' Think Pink meet as all fans are encouraged to wear pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The first 50 fans will receive free pink rally towels.
"We want to see (the team) apply good race strategies and rely on their training," said head coach Andy Johns. "We want to see them be competitive which a lot of that comes naturally with the excitement of the first meet at home."
The Lumberjacks narrowly edged out the Lobos last season on the road in Albuquerque, N.M. as they pulled out a 152-148 victory. In the pool, the Lumberjacks claimed seven individual victories led by two each from seniors Emma Lowther and Rachel Palmer. Lowther won both the 200 and 500 freestyle while Palmer took first in the 200 butterfly and 200 individual medley.
However NAU found itself trailing New Mexico, 142-141, heading into the final event, the 400 freestyle relay, where its "A" 400 free relay team came up clutch. The quartet of Kelsey Loy, Alex Huff, Lowther and Ellie Morrissey touched at 3:30.29 – .49 seconds faster than UNM's top team – and provided the Lumberjacks with 11 points to rally for the team victory in the meet.
"New Mexico is a very good team and they are very good in the sprints," Johns said. "This is their first meet also and we're expecting a great meet. Last year it came down to the last relay and we were fortunate to get a hand on the wall first. They'll win some events and we'll win some events and that's the type of meet we'll have (on Saturday)."
The Lumberjacks take a strong squad into the new season led by a strong senior class headlined by CollegeSwimming.com Mid-Major All-Americans Lowther, Palmer and Jordan Burnes. Coupled with a talented group of underclassmen and a strong diving unit led by senior Gwen Smithberg and sophomore Chelsea Jackson, both of whom were NCAA Zone Diving participants last season, NAU is primed to bring home its first Western Athletic Conference championship.
With its win last season, NAU holds a slim 13-12 advantage in the all-time series with New Mexico. The Lobos are coming off a 6-4 dual record in 2012-13 and a sixth-place finish in the Mountain West Conference.