Swimming & Diving Season Outlook: Breaststroke & Butterfly
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The series of event breakdowns for the 2013-14 Northern Arizona swimming & diving team continues today with previews of the breaststroke and butterfly.
This is the second part of a three-part season outlook as NAU's first regular season dual meet at home versus New Mexico approaches on Oct. 26.
Oct. 18 - Breaststroke/Butterfly
Oct. 21 - Individual Medley/Diving
In the breaststroke, senior Jordan Burnes enters her final season after a great WAC Championship meet where she totaled two individual top-three finishes in the 100 and 200 breast. Burnes finished runner-up in the 200 breast with a school record and NCAA B Standard time of 2:14.13 and in addition to breaking her own school record in the 100 breast with a B time time of 1:02.04, which landed her a third-place finish.
Burnes is not alone in the Lumberjacks' talented group of breaststrokers as she is joined by fellow senior Stirling Smith, whose time of 1:03.26 in the 100 breast only trails that of Burnes in NAU's record books. Smith's career-best time earned her a 10th-place finish in the 100 breast at the conference meet and coupled with an eighth place finish in the 200 breast, she also had a solid showing in the season-ending meet.
"Jordan and Stirling are the seniors of this group and they definitely lead the way," said head coach Andy Johns. "Breaststroke is a strength for us and we have a lot of depth. For a home meet, to pick the three that will race for us is hard to do."
The depth is exemplified with the likes of juniors Meagan Morrison and Emily Lewandowski and sophomores Monica Pruett and Cassie Ronai. Pruett and Morrison both posted career-best times in the 200 breast at the conference meet where the pair finished 11th and 19th overall respectively.
Two freshmen – Caitlin Baker and Urte Kazakeviciute – will bring a lot of competition to this experienced group in their first season. Baker won the 150 breast at the team's annual Blue vs. Gold meet knocking off both Burnes and Smith in the event, while Kazakeviciute comes to Flagstaff as the Lithuanian record holder in the 200 breast.
The group of swimmers that compose the butterfly event is a highly versatile bunch led by senior Rachel Palmer, the school's record holder in the 200 fly. Palmer, a four-time WAC gold medalist, won the 200 fly at the 2012 WAC Championships and finished fourth in the event last season. The senior from Bucklands Beach, Auckland, New Zealand is just one of many options Johns has to turn to in the 100 and 200 fly.
Junior Alexis Juergens leads the Lumberjacks in the 100 fly after an 11th-place finish at the conference championship with a time of 55.84, the fifth fastest time in school history. Juergens also picked up a 12th-place finish in the 200 fly as she was one of two swimmers, with senior Andrea Derflinger being the other, to register two top-15 finishes in the butterfly last season. Sophomore Eva Pold also had a positive showing at the WAC meet as she finished one spot ahead of Juergens in the 200 fly.
Seniors Emma Lowther and Becky Russell and sophomore Kendall Brown also swam butterfly events last year as the Lumberjacks return five athletes (Palmer, Lowther, Brown, Derflinger and Juergens) who currently hold a spot in the top-five all-time performances in either the 100 and 200 fly, the most in any stroke.
"We've got a deep group in the butterfly events," Johns said. "The trick is figuring out who the hot swimmer is on any given day."