Photo Courtesy of Rick Johnson
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona swimming & diving team picked up a resounding victory over a quality Western Athletic Conference opponent on Saturday to improve to 2-0 this season. The Lumberjacks took the lead in the second event of the day and never trailed the rest of the day in defeating Idaho, 175-125, at the Wall Aquatic Center in their final home meet until Feb. 8.
"I'm so proud of the way our girls raced today and it was a total team effort," said head coach Andy Johns. "Alexis Juergens was dynamite in everything she swam and our distance crew went 1-2-3 twice. The spirit of this team is great and they really enjoy our home pool advantage. Idaho is a really good team and we're going to have a big battle with them in Texas (for the WAC Championships) at the end of February."
Junior Alexis Juergens and senior Emma Lowther each won two of the Lumberjacks' eight individual events on Saturday as NAU successfully climbed out of an early deficit for the second week in a row. After Idaho took first in the 400 medley relay to begin the day, Lowther led the Lumberjack charge in the 800 free with a time of 9:10.36. Lowther was the first of three Lumberjacks to touch with sophomores Kendall Brown and Monica Pruett right behind as NAU captured its first of three 1-2-3 finishes on the day. The Lumberjacks' domination in the 800 free put them ahead on the scoreboard 22-14 and they never looked back.
Although the Vandals' Rachel Millet followed with a win in the 200 free, the Lumberjacks countered with junior Caitlin Wright, senior Rachel Palmer and sophomore Eva Pold finishing in the next three spots. The team's ability to finish second, third and fourth on four occasions in events that Idaho took first was key in NAU pulling out the team victory.
Freshman Jori Lindquist won her first individual race of her career with a time of 1:05.77 with sophomores Brooke Brittain and Lindsay Clark-Warren rounding out an NAU top-three finish in the 100 back right before senior Stirling Smith picked up a win in the 100 breast with a time of 1:12.55. Heading into the first break of the meet, Juergens edged out Idaho's Megan Venlos in the 50 free with a time of 27.22 for her first of two wins.
After sophomore Chelsea Jackson, this week's WAC Diver of the Week, won the 1-meter for the second week in a row with a score of 283.80, the Lumberjacks held a commanding 91-59 advantage in the meet. Idaho would post victories in the next two events – the 100 free and 200 back – before freshman Caitlin Baker claimed her second first-place finish in the 200 breast in as many weeks and Lowther, Brown and Wright finished 1-2-3 in the 400 free.
That set the stage for Juergens' second title of the day in the 100 fly, where she blazed through her competitors with a Wall Aquatic Center record time of 1:02.96, breaking the previous mark of 1:03.34 set by Boise State's Amber Boucher in 2010. Her record-breaking swim came just one week after she narrowly missed the mark by winning the event against New Mexico with a time of 1:03.49.
"I didn't realize last week that I was a tenth of a second off the record," Juergens said. "My goal this week was to get it and to get it by about half a second was pretty surprising. I was very happy with that."
The Vandals finished the meet with wins in the final three events – 3-meter diving, the 200 IM and the 200 free relay – but the Lumberjacks had the meet well in-hand by then. The blow dealt by Idaho in the final two individual events was lessened with the Lumberjacks taking the second, third and fourth positions.
"Today was awesome and everyone did well," Juergens said. "We had a good week of training. Everyone had really good finishes and made good turns. We did a lot better with the little details and I'm proud of our team."
The Lumberjacks continue their season next Friday and Saturday with their first meets on the road. NAU faces fellow WAC opponent Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colo. on Nov. 8 before taking on Colorado State in Fort Collins, Colo. the following day.