FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona swimming & diving team blazed through the first half of Saturday's dual meet and coasted to victory, 168-127, over New Mexico State in the Aquatic and Tennis Complex. The Lumberjacks won 13 of the 16 events – including the first nine – and made a midseason statement in a matchup between last spring's top two finishers at the Western Athletic Conference Championships.
"We came out sharp and I was pleasantly surprised with that because I didn't know what to expect out of our girls after the (Thanksgiving) break," said head coach Andy Johns. "We won every event during the first part of the meet and winning the backstroke followed by Urte (Kazakeviciute)'s 100 breaststroke was big. We just kept rolling, and although we were a little rough in the 200s during the second part of the meet, I liked our energy."
NAU all but put away New Mexico State after nine events with the Lumberjacks up big, 121-48. During the opening stretch, senior Alexa Geiger and juniors Alina Staffeldt, Claire Hammond and Kimmy Richter all posted the first of two event wins each. Geiger would win up sweeping the diving events, with Staffeldt claiming victory in the two butterflies, Hammond in the 100 and 200 freestyles and Richter in the two distance frees.
"We knew coming into this meet that we were facing a tough opponent and we all had the mindset that we needed to be the best that we can," Geiger said. "Facing a team like New Mexico State makes us think about the end of the year even more because we know we'll be seeing them again at the conference meet."
The Lumberjacks went one-two to immediately start the meet in the 200 medley relay. Senior Sara Lenhoff, senior Urte Kazakeviciute, Staffeldt and junior Roni Houck combined to go 1:46.48 with NAU's 'B' team coming in runner-up to give the 'Jacks a quick 15-2 advantage.
Ricther followed with a time of 10:45.73 to win the 1,000 freestyle by more than 15 seconds and Hammond then clocked a winning time of 1:54.48 in the 200 free. The 'Jacks then received a big boost when freshman Fernand Montiel edged out a win in the 100 backstroke with a time of 58.63 before Kazakeviciute posted her lone win of the day in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:04.24.
Freshman Emily Martin and junior Audrey Mann teamed with Kazakeviciute to go one-three-four in the 100 breast, immediately preceding a one-two-three sweep in the 200 fly. Staffeldt led the way with a time of 2:04.86, with Richter and freshman Kate Bier in successive order behind her. The Lumberjacks then went into the first break with Houck (24.04) and sophomore Andrea Schmidt (24.23) claiming the top two spots in the 50 free.
Geiger took home the win on the 3-meter springboard with a score of 304.80 and overall NAU placed three in the top four with sophomores Tanya Kurach and Christina Torrente going third and fourth respectively. Coming out of the diving break, Hammond and Houck collected the Lumberjacks' third straight one-two swimming finish in the 100 free and the meet was all but decided at that point.
The Aggies responded with their first two wins in the 200 back and the 200 breast before Richter cruised to a win in the 500 free with a time of 5:10.53, exactly six seconds faster than the next competitor. Staffeldt posted an impressive win herself in the 100 fly by almost two and a half seconds at 57.99 and Geiger then recorded the victory on 1-meter with a score of 303.90.
The meet finished with New Mexico State winning the 200 individual medley and NAU turning in the fastest time in the 400 free relay. In the final event, Hammond, Richter, Staffeldt and Houck posted a time of 3:35.44.
Along with sweeping both relays as they did against Idaho in their most recent dual meet, the Lumberjacks also extended their diving dominance by winning both springboards. In all, NAU has won seven of eight dual meet diving events this season.
"Overall we did really well with Lex doing really well on boards," said diving coach Nikki Huffman. "Tanya was great on both boards as well, and Christina was solid while working in two new dives into her list. Raquel (Gonzales) was really consistent and Olivia did a good job coming off being sick. New Mexico State measures up pretty close to us, and we put ourselves in good scoring spots."
The Lumberjacks will not have another home meet until Jan. 21 against Northern Colorado. To conclude the 2016 calendar year, NAU will head south to Tempe to face Arizona State on Dec. 16 while Geiger will compete at the USA Diving Winter Nationals from Dec. 16-21.