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January 1, 2014

NAU Starts 2014 in Tucson in Pac-12 Televised Double Dual

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – For the ninth consecutive year, the Northern Arizona swimming & diving team will pair their trip south to Tucson into an opportunity to compete against two premier Pac-12 squads. The Lumberjacks will compete in a televised double dual with Arizona and Oregon State on Friday at UA's Hillenbrand Aquatic Center beginning at 1:00 p.m. The meet will be televised on the Pac-12 network on a tape delay broadcast.

"This is a critical time of the year for us," said head coach Andy Johns. "This meet is another great opportunity to swim against quality opponents. In the fall, we stacked our competition and now in January and February it's spread out a little more. We can really focus on some quality training and then try to be really sharp a couple of times (in competition) as we head towards the end of February (for the WAC Championships.)"

The meet, which will also include New Mexico State whom the Lumberjacks will not score against, will conclude a week long training opportunity for the team in Tucson following a break for the holidays.

Led by strong performances throughout the lineup both in the pool and on the diving boards, the Lumberjacks concluded the first half of the season with a 4-1 record in dual meets. Senior Emma Lowther has won a team-best nine events to pace 14 different Lumberjacks who have won at least one individual title. Sophomore Chelsea Jackson, a two-time WAC Diver of the Week awardee in the fall, has won a team-best four events on the boards. The team's talented freshmen class has also contributed with several first-year student-athletes pulling in individual dual meet victories.

Arizona, ranked No. 13 in the country in the last NCAA rankings on Dec. 9, and Oregon State will both pose top-notch competition to the Lumberjacks as they begin to gear up for the stretch run towards the Western Athletic Conference Championship meet at the end of February.

Last year, the Lumberjacks fell to both Arizona and Oregon State, but their loss to the Beavers was by a slim 147-146 margin. The one-point defeat narrowly prevented NAU from capturing its second win over Oregon State in three seasons after defeating the Beavers for the first time in program history during the 2010-11 season. UA is 4-1 this season in dual meets while OSU is 2-7.

NAU's 400 relay team of Kelsey Loy, Kendall Brown, Lowther and Ellie Morrissey placed second to close out the meet a year ago. Senior Rachel Palmer tallied a third-place finish in the 200 butterfly for the best Lumberjack individual finish. Senior Gwen Smithberg placed fourth on both the 1-meter and 3-meter boards.

The Pac-12 Network televised meet featuring NAU, Arizona, Oregon State and New Mexico State will air on Saturday evening, Jan. 4, at 6:00 p.m. MST/5:00 p.m. PST. The 1,000 freestyle on Friday will begin at 12:40 p.m. prior to the start of the meet and will not be a part of the televised coverage.