LAS VEGAS, Nev. & TUCSON, Ariz. – Saturday was a challenging day for both the Northern Arizona swimmers and divers, but the Lumberjacks pulled through to post solid results in their respective meets. The swimmers wrapped up the UNLV Fall Invitational with 155 team points in spite of some difficult outside factors while the divers overcame inclement weather yet again on the second day of the Wildcat Diving Invitational.
The Lumberjack swimmers concluded the UNLV-hosted meet not in the way they would have preferred, but still managed to finish the three-day meet strong. Facing air quality issues in the Buchanan Natatorium, a handful of swimmers that qualified for the finals during the morning preliminaries were scratched. In particular, the Lumberjacks posted exceptional prelim times in the 200 breast with senior Stirling Smith (eighth), freshman Caitlin Baker (ninth) and freshman Urte Kazakevicitue (11th) all qualifying in the top-11.
Among the other notable qualifiers during the preliminaries was senior Rachel Palmer, 12th in the 200 back, and sophomore Monica Pruett, 18th in the 200 breast, as the pair rounded out the Lumberjacks' top-20 qualifiers. A total of 17 NAU swimmers qualified for the finals before a number of them were held out.
In the finals, junior Caitlin Wright was the Lumberjacks' top finisher, placing fourth in the 1,650 freestyle with a time of 17:08.11. Also recording a top-10 finish was senior Jordan Burnes, who placed eighth in the 200 breast with a time of 2:22.07. Freshmen Jori Lindquist (13th) and Sara Lenhoff (17th), sophomores Lindsay Clark-Warren (20th) and Trinity Frazee (21st) and senior Ashani Gottlieb (26th) all swam in the finals of the 200 backstroke. In addition to Burnes, juniors Meagan Morrison (22nd) and Emily Lewandowski (23rd) competed in the 200 breast finals while junior Alexis Juergens (15th), freshman Kathryn Palomino (17th) and senior Becky Russell (22nd) swam in the 200 fly finals.
"Our girls swam really well and everybody swam season-best times and a lot swam lifetime-bests," said head coach Andy Johns. "To compete against that level of competition and get into scoring heats, we gained a ton of experience. We have a lot of information to use going forward. I'm really pleased overall and it's a great way to end this segment of the season."
Six swimmers in total swam career-best times on Saturday. Palmer's 200 back prelim time of 2:01.28 is the best of her career, as was Lenhoff's time of 2:04.42 and Clark-Warren's 2:05.95 in the 200 back. Frazee (53.04) and sophomore Cassie Ronai (56.20) recorded lifetime-bests in the 100 free while Kazakeviciute (2:21.80) posted her best 200 breaststroke time.
For the second straight day in Tucson, sophomore Chelsea Jackson was the Lumberjacks' top diver at the Wildcat Diving Invite. Jackson advanced to the 1-meter consolation after her score of 246.65 ranked her 13th after the preliminaries. She would improve on that score in a big way in the consolations as she posted a score of 272.85 to improve to 10th overall. Jackson narrowly came up short in winning the consolation by just four points.
Freshman Alexa Geiger was two spots shy of qualifying for the consolation herself, as she finished 18th in the preliminaries with a score of 217.10. Senior Gwen Smithberg (25th), sophomore Carlye Townsend (27th) and senior Jane Wakefield (42nd) rounded out the Lumberjacks' efforts on 1-meter.
"We had another great day and everyone dove better today," said diving coach Nikki Huffman. "If Chelsea had dove like she did in consolations (during the preliminaries) she would've made the big final. All in all, a very good day in miserable conditions but we got tougher. Hopefully we'll see some good things on tower tomorrow."
The NAU divers will compete in the final day of the Wildcat Diving Invite in Tucson on Sunday. They will compete on platform for the first time this season with competition beginning at 11 a.m.