FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The NAU swimming & diving team (4-2 in duals) returns from its holiday break for a challenging meet against No. 6 Arizona (5-2) and Oregon State (0-4) at noon Friday in Tucson. Fellow WAC member New Mexico State will also be competing in the meet but will not score against NAU.
The Lumberjacks have been training in Tucson since Sunday, Dec. 30, after conducting a similar training camp two weeks ago in Florida before the swimmers competed against Northwestern. The NAU divers have not had a formal competition since Dec. 1 when the team scored a 176-116 win over New Mexico State.
"The girls have been working hard and it's been a good week," NAU head coach Andy Johns said. "It's been a little different (than Florida) in that we have access to some different facilities and different equipment that we get to take advantage of. We've been a little more power oriented with two of our practices down here, and I don't necessarily expect the fastest times of the season from most people because they are tired from a hard week of training."
With the WAC Championships less than two months away, the team enters the stretch run of its preparation to compete for a conference title. The Lumberjacks will have just two more duals after Friday's competition as their weeks of sea level training in Tucson and south Florida draw to a close with a challenging event on Friday.
"We need to see people swim in certain races that maybe they haven't swum before or swum as much of in our other dual meets," Johns said. "This is another opportunity for us to gather information so that we can make better decisions about what people are going to do at the end of the year."
The swimmers took second in an exhibition meet against Northwestern to end their stay in Florida on Dec. 20, placing second and third in five of six relay events and with the third and fourth finishers in the only individual event, the 1000 freestyle. That meet came after the Lumberjack swimmers won 12 of 14 events in a dominant dual win over New Mexico State paced by multiple individual event wins from senior Fi Connell, junior Rachel Palmer, and freshman Ellie Morrissey.
Senior Kristy Ardavanis won both the 1 and 3-meter diving competitions against the Aggies and has recorded the three highest 1-meter scores and three of the four-highest 3-meter scores in the WAC this season. Junior Gwen Smithberg recorded the top platform score in the WAC this season with a 216.00 total at the Arizona Diving Invite and will look to build on that score as the divers have gotten significant training on platform throughout the week.
"Our divers have had a great week being on the towers, which is the main thing they get out of training down here," Johns said. "I think that our divers should compete very well with the UA divers and the New Mexico State divers as well (Oregon State does not have diving)."
Arizona is ranked No. 6 in the nation in the most recent CollegeSwimming.com/CSCAA Coaches Poll. Junior Margo Geer has the top 50 and 100 free times in the nation this season while freshman Bonnie Brandon has the second best 200 back mark in the NCAA. Oregon State has dropped duals to UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, Utah, and Boise State but had 16 top-five finishes in their last action at the Husky Invite.
This will be the eighth consecutive year that NAU has faced both UA and OSU in a meet in Tucson. The Lumberjacks are 0-19 all-time against Arizona and 1-7 all-time against Oregon State.
"U of A is one of the top teams in the country and they swam very fast in Texas at the beginning of December and really swim fast all the time," Johns said. "Oregon State has been training down here as well and we are going to have to be pretty good to beat them. "
For Lumberjack supports in the Tucson area, admission is FREE for the meet in Hillenbrand Aquatic Center.