FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Four Northern Arizona divers will take their shot at qualifying for the NCAA National Championships starting Monday at the NCAA Zone E Diving Championships in the Aquatic and Tennis Complex. The three-day meet will run from Monday, March 6 through Wednesday, March 8 and admission is free for all fans.
"It's a deep and tough field, but it's good for us," said diving coach Nikki Huffman. "We have a talented group and they'll rise to the occasion. We have a couple of things we need to improve from conference, and this is a time that you'll need to do both lists well. If they dive well, good things are possible and I'm excited for that."
This year's WAC Diver of the Year, sophomore Tanya Kurach, leads NAU's four Zone participants who are seeking a bid to the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships. Kurach will be joined by senior Alexa Geiger and sophomores Raquel Gonzales and Christina Torrente. Geiger will be diving in her fourth Zones while Gonzales and Torrente are making their second appearances. The meet will be the first for Kurach.
To extend their seasons, the four Lumberjacks will need to rise to the cream of the crop among a field of nearly 90 combined men's and women's divers. A total of 22 schools from the Pac-12, Mountain West, Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and the WAC will converge to the ATC on the Northern Arizona University Campus. This marks the second consecutive year that the NCAA Zone E Diving Championships, featuring the highest caliber divers the West region has to offer, will be held in the Aquatic and Tennis Complex – one of the premier facilities in the nation.
"It's great that we're able to host meets like this because it means more people are coming," Huffman said. "Hopefully in the future we can host more meets in order to get younger people to see what is so special and great here at NAU. It's also awesome to have the home pool advantage, so hopefully it all works in our favor."
The meet will begin with women's 3-meter and men's 1-meter action on Monday. Tuesday's competition will consist of the women's 1-meter and men's 3-meter events with both the women and men competing on platform on Wednesday. The women's preliminaries will kick start each day at 11 a.m. with women's finals to follow. The men's prelims and finals will conclude the day's events.
NAU's four Zone qualifiers combined for eight all-conference honors, and four total medals, at the WAC Championships. Along with sophomore Olivia Payne, the team's five divers were a perfect 15-for-15 in scoring opportunities to help the Lumberjacks capture their fourth straight conference title.
Kurach was the lone Lumberjack diver to garner three All-WAC (top eight) finishes at the conference meet. She earned the meet's top diving honor following her gold medal performance on 3-meter and a bronze medal on platform. She also placed seventh on 1-meter.
Geiger meanwhile collected NAU's second gold medal on 1-meter. Torrente earned her first career medal with a silver on 1-meter to back Geiger's efforts in addition to placing fourth on platform. Gonzales had a best finish of sixth on platform and also placed seventh on the 3-meter springboard.
Last season's NCAA Zone meet was a near milestone for Geiger, as she narrowly missed out on the NCAA Championships by finishing 12th in the 1-meter finals. It was her first finals appearance at Zones and marked her highest finish at the regional qualifying meet. Torrente's top finish last season also was in the 1-meter event in 29th, while Gonzales was 43rd on both 1-meter and platform. While Kurach will be competing in her first NCAA Zone Championships, she does have national championship experience during her Division II All-American season at Henderson State last year.
To qualify for the Zone meet, divers had to post qualifying marks throughout the season. All four divers posted qualifying scores on both 1-meter and 3-meter this season, while Gonzales was the only one among the group to post a standard score on platform.
Live results throughout the meet will be available at divemeets.com. The approximate start times for each day can be found below.
Monday, March 7
|11:00 a.m.||Women's 3-meter Prelims|
|2:35 p.m.||Women's 3-meter Finals|
|5:35 p.m.||Men's 1-meter Prelims|
|7:20 p.m.||Men's 1-meter Finals|
Tuesday, March 7
|11:00 a.m.||Women's 1-meter Prelims|
|2:35 p.m.||Women's 1-meter Finals|
|5:35 p.m.||Men's 3-meter Prelims|
|7:20 p.m.||Men's 3-meter Finals|
Wednesday, March 8
|11:00 a.m.||Women's Platform Prelims|
|1:35 p.m.||Women's Platform Finals|
|3:50 p.m.||Men's Platform Prelims|
|5:35 p.m.||Men's Platform Finals|