COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Sophomore Chelsea Jackson and senior Gwen Smithberg shined on the first day of the Air Force Diving Invitational as the Northern Arizona divers had an all-around impressive showing on Friday. Jackson and Smithberg both clinched third-place finishes on 1-meter and platform respectively against divers from 16 universities.
"With both of the competitions today, we saw really good things to build on and things that we need to clean up for conference," said diving coach Nikki Huffman. "There were definitely some top divers here and we did a good job."
The five NAU divers competed in two events on the opening day of the two-day meet beginning with the 1-meter boards. Jackson, the Western Athletic Conference's top 1-meter diver, made the biggest splash for the Lumberjacks during the morning's 1-meter session as she leaped seven spots in the finals to garner a third-place finish. She advanced to the 12-diver finals with a preliminary score of 258.75 and entered the finals seeded 10th. Jackson propelled herself up to third with a sensational finals score of 279.05, jumping over two divers each from Texas A&M and Colorado State as well as one of the WAC's top divers in Idaho's Paige Hunt.
Freshman Alexa Geiger and sophomore Carlye Townsend also posted solid scores in the 1-meter event as the pair narrowly missed qualifying for the finals by less than 20 points. Geiger's score of 234.60 was good for 19th – seven spots out of the final 12 – and Townsend placed 23rd with a score of 220.15. Smithberg finished with a score of 196.05 and senior Jane Wakefield received a score of 153.30.
In the night session, all five divers posted season-best scores on the tower led by Smithberg's dominant performance. Smithberg, the school record holder on platform, finished third and became the first Lumberjack to qualify for the NCAA Zone Meet in the event after receiving a score of 247.65. The third-place finish was one spot better for the senior after placing fourth at last year's Air Force Diving Invite. Smithberg upped her 2014 conference-leading platform score nearly 30 points from her previous season-high of 219.30.
The Lumberjacks in all placed three divers in the platform top-20 as Jackson finished 11th with a score of 205.60. Geiger earned her second top-20 finish of the day as her score of 184.20 was tied for 20th Friday night and crushed her previous season-high score of 103.80 in the process. Townsend wound up in a tie for 30th with a score of 167.75 and Wakefield posted a score of 137.10.
With the WAC Championships a little over a month away, Friday was the Lumberjacks' final opportunity to dive off the towers before diving for the conference championship in San Antonio.
"We didn't hit every dive today, but we dove really well (on platform)," Huffman said. "Almost everyone is doing at least one new dive. This is Carlye's first full year of doing it and Lexi came in without doing any tower. Everyone is doing harder dives and they're doing a good job."
The Lumberjack divers conclude the Air Force Diving Invitational on Saturday with 3-meter competition. Preliminaries will begin at 11:25 a.m. and finals will commence at 2:25 p.m. at Air Force's Cadet Natatorium.