FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona swimming & diving team started its season in style Saturday morning, picking up 10 individual wins in powering its way to a 166.5-131.5 victory over New Mexico in the first regular season dual meet for both teams. Sophomore Kendall Brown's dominating win in the 800 free – her first of three individual victories – helped pave the way for the Lumberjacks after they found themselves in an early hole after the first event of the day.
"After New Mexico came out and went one-two on us in the first relay, I thought we were in for a long day but our girls rallied," said head coach Andy Johns. "Kendall Brown was really good today as were all the girls. We went one-two where we needed to and our divers did great. It was a team win all the way around and I'm really proud of all of their efforts. I'm excited to start the season this way."
The Lobos held a strong 15-2 advantage after taking the top-two spots in the 200 medley relay, but Brown's win the 800 free was just the beginning of the Lumberjacks' comeback. The sophomore from Aliso Viejo, Calif. posted a time of 9:07.01 and easily won the day's second event by 20 seconds. Senior Emma Lowther and junior Caitlin Wright followed with a one-two finish in the 200 free which helped the Lumberjacks take a brief lead before the two teams found themselves tied at 37-37 through four events.
The Lumberjacks would seize the lead for good in the 100 breast after freshman Urte Kazakeviciute took first with a time of 1:13.40 and senior Stirling Smith finishing right behind at 1:13.56. NAU then grabbed three of the top-four spots in the 200 fly with Brown notching her second win with a time of 2:22.04 and seniors Rachel Palmer and Andrea Derflinger claiming second and fourth respectively as the team's lead grew to 65-47.
The Lobos would take the top-three spots in the 50 free heading into the first break in action, but the Lumberjacks got their points back by taking three of the four scoring spots on the 1-meter diving board highlighted by a record-breaking performance by sophomore Chelsea Jackson. Jackson broke the Wall Aquatic Center record with a 1-meter score of 303.15 to take the top position while freshman Alexa Geiger and senior Gwen Smithberg took third and fourth respectively.
NAU offset UNM's first-place finishes in the next two swimming events – the 100 free and 200 back – by taking three of the top-five scoring spots before putting the meet out of reach by winning the next five individual events. Freshman Caitlin Baker took first in the 200 breast with a time of 2:39.76 before Brown nailed down her third victory of the day in the 400 free with a time of 4:28.37. Junior Alexis Juergens then narrowly missed breaking the pool record in the 100 fly with a time of 1:03.49 before Smithberg won on 3-meter and Palmer notched a victory in the 200 IM. The Lobos would finish the meet by taking the top-two positions in the 400 free relay.
Overall the Lumberjacks took the top-two spots in six events and three divers earned NCAA Zone Diving qualifying scores in the first meet of the season. Jackson and Smithberg qualified on both boards and Geiger qualified on 1-meter.
"It's an amazing day to be a Lumberjack," Brown said. "I'm proud of my team and I'm proud of the way I swam. All of my hard work that I've put into swimming paid off and I'm enjoying swimming with this team. I love the atmosphere this year."
The Lumberjacks are back in action next Saturday, Nov. 2 versus Idaho. The meet will be held at the Wall Aquatic Center once again at 11 a.m.