FORT COLLINS, Colo. – In a closely contested, see-saw dual meet, Colorado State ultimately ended the Northern Arizona swimming & diving team's undefeated start to the 2013-14 season Saturday morning, 152-148, after edging out the Lumberjacks in the day's final relay event. NAU fought its way back after trailing through the first five events, but narrowly fell to 3-1 this season.
"It came down to the last relay and we just came up a little short but anytime a college dual meet comes down to the last relay it means it's been a great meet and it really was today," said head coach Andy Johns. "I'm really proud of our efforts and our results though. We were sharp given the fact that we swam last night and we had some good fortunes the last three meets. Today, those finishes and touches went to Colorado State."
After the Rams started the day with a first and third place finish in the 200 medley relay, sophomore Kendall Brown and senior Emma Lowther began the Lumberjacks' comeback bid as they have done all season. Brown won the 1,000 freestyle by 16 seconds with a time of 10:26.09 and Lowther followed with a victory in the 200 free with a time of 1:54.74 that brought NAU within one point at 28-27. Colorado State responded by taking the top-two spots in the 100 back, but senior Stirling Smith would take first with a time of 1:06.00 in the 100 breaststroke in a tight race where the top-four were separated by less than a second.
The Lumberjacks climbed in front in the day's sixth event – the 200 butterfly – after Brown posted her second win of the day with a time of 2:07.57. Coupled with senior Rachel Palmer's runner-up finish, NAU held a slim 57-55 lead. CSU retook the lead briefly by winning the 50 free in another close race in which the top-four finished less than half a second apart, only for the Lumberjacks to grab the advantage back heading into the first break as they snagged three of the top-four positions in the 1-meter diving. Sophomore Chelsea Jackson claimed her fourth win of the season with a score of 299.85, while senior Gwen Smithberg and freshman Alexa Geiger took third and fourth respectively.
Colorado State stole the momentum by finishing 1-2-3 in the 100 free after the break and following with a 1-2 finish in the 200 back to stretch its lead out to 103-85. Freshman Caitlin Baker then led a strong NAU showing in the 200 breast by winning the event while Smith and freshman Urte Kazakeviciute also finished in the top-four. Lowther, Brown and junior Caitlin Wright then matched the Rams' 1-2-3 finish by easily taking the top-three spots themselves in the 500 free putting NAU ahead 115-111. Junior Alexis Juergens continued the Lumberjacks' winning ways in 100 fly and Smithberg claimed NAU's ninth win of the day with a career-best score of 310.43 on 3-meter.
The Rams narrowed the Lumberjacks' lead down to 144-139 with a win in the 200 IM, which set the stage for the day's final event – the 400 free relay. After NAU's 'A' team fell behind early in the first two legs, freshman Kathryn Palomino closed the gap in the third leg and handed it off to Lowther. Lowther's effort came up just short as the Rams' 'A' team touched with a time of 3:31.11, a mere .19 seconds before the Lumberjacks' time of 3:31.30, propelling them to the meet victory.
Despite the loss, NAU continued its strong showing early this season especially on the diving boards where it won all four events this weekend. Each of the team's three divers that traveled – Jackson, Smithberg and Geiger – won at least one event.
"The divers are diving very well right now which is great," said diving coach Nikki Huffman. "If somebody misses a little bit on one board, someone else steps up. We have different people winning. This was the hardest competition we've had all year and we stepped up."
The Lumberjacks will have next week off to continue training before the team splits up in two weeks. The swimmers will travel to Las Vegas, Nev. for the UNLV Invite from Nov. 21-23 while the divers will head south to Tucson, Ariz. for the Wildcat Diving Invite from Nov. 22-24.