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February 24, 2012

Palmer, Burnes Take 400 IM, Four Records Broken at WAC Day Three

VIDEO: PALMER AND BURNES DOMINATE 400 IM

VIDEO: 1-METER AND 3-METER DIVING

BLOG: SENIOR DIVER HOLLY FROST

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Sophomores Rachel Palmer and Jordan Burnes took gold and silver in the 400 IM, with Palmer breaking one of four NAU program records on the day during the race as the Lumberjacks totaled one gold, three silvers, and one bronze on the third day of the WAC Championship. NAU remains in second place behind San Jose State with the meet to conclude on Saturday.

The Spartans increased their lead atop the standings in bringing their championship total to 475 points, while NAU now stands at 411 and Hawaii is third at 398. NAU has won three WAC Championships during the meet and has broken six total school records with one day of competition remaining.

"We're still in the hunt, as San Jose State had a great day but we did as well," head coach Andy Johns said. "Now were in a real battle in trying to win it and stay ahead of Hawaii. We knew this would be a good day for other teams and we will be better tomorrow, but I'm really proud of some more great swimming tonight."

Palmer broke the previous 400 IM record of 4:23.73, set by Alexis Buckley in 2007, by nearly 4.5 seconds in the prelims and then broke it again in winning the final with an NCAA B standard time of 4:18.46. Burnes also broke the previous record twice on Thursday, finishing second in the final in 4:20.35. Senior Kristin Jones also advanced to the 400 IM final and finished eighth overall with a time of 4:29.49.

"Winning the 400 IM was awesome, probably the best feeling ever, and to turn around and see Jordan come in second was amazing," said Palmer. "I think we're proving to everyone how hard we worked all year and everyone is swimming faster than they ever have before. Our program is continuing to improve and it's awesome to see."

Burnes would also break the 100 breaststroke record twice on Friday, taking fourth overall in the event in 1:02.77, an NCAA B standard time that rebroke the former school record of 1:03.33 recorded by Kim Kopra in 2008. NAU sophomore Stirling Smith advanced to the 100 breast consolation final and finished third with a NAU career-best time of 1:04.50.

Another NAU record was rebroken by sophomore Emma Lowther, who finished third in the 200 Free with a time of 1:48.26, a record she previously broke during the 800 free relay on Wednesday. After winning the 400 IM with a school record time on Thursday, junior Fi Connell took silver in the 100 back with an NCAA B standard time of 54.45.

The NAU quartet of Connell, Burnes, Palmer and Lowther broke the fourth team record of the day in the 400 medley relay, finishing second overall with a time of 3:41.74, surpassing the previous school record time of 3:43.82 recorded at the WAC championships last year (a squad that included Connell and Lowther).

For the second consecutive day, junior Kristy Ardavanis had the second best preliminary diving score and qualified for the final on 3-meter, finishing fourth overall at 309.60. Freshman Kali Lents scored 289.25 to place sixth in the prelims and finished seventh overall at 283.65, while senior Cassie Anderson and sophomore Gwen Smithberg made the consolation final. Smithberg finishing 12th overall at 279.55 and Anderson placed 16th with a 250.05 score as four NAU divers scored.

In the other individual race on Friday, NAU's best time in the 100 fly came from freshman Alexis Juergens, who finished third in the B final and eighth overall with a team season-best time of 56.35, the fifth-fastest time in program history.

"The 400 IM was a great way to start tonight and Emma continues to be great," added Johns. "For Jordan to do that double in the 400 IM and 100 breast and swim fast in the medley relay was amazing, and Fi had another great finish. Hopefully it builds momentum into tomorrow morning which will decide how things finish up."

NAU will look to overtake the Spartans on the final day of the conference meet on Saturday, with swimming and platform diving prelims to begin at 11 a.m. local time and finals to commence at 6:30.