LAS VEGAS, Nev. & TUCSON, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona swimming & diving team posted strong efforts in their respective meets on Friday. The Lumberjack swimmers recorded three top-eight finishes to wrap up the second day of the UNLV Fall Invitational while sophomore Chelsea Jackson notched a seventh-place finish on 3-meter to open up the Wildcat Diving Invitational.
In Las Vegas, the swimming crew picked up 71 points on Friday to improve its two-day total to 123 points. Senior Stirling Smith, sophomore Kendall Brown and junior Alexis Juergens all swam in the championship heat in their respective events after recording top-eight qualifying times in the preliminaries. Smith finished fourth in the 100 breast, the highest finish of any Lumberjack at the highly competitive UNLV Invite thus far, with a time of 1:03.68, just barely missing out on her career-best time. Brown placed seventh in the 400 IM with a time of 4:26.68 and Juergens took an eighth-place finish in the 100 fly with a time of 56.25.
"Stirling Smith in the 100 breaststroke was fantastic tonight," said head coach Andy Johns. "We came here expecting to swim well but not really sure how many championship final swims we would get. To get three tonight is meaningful. It says a lot about our program, those girls and how they're ready to compete. Tomorrow could be even better and I think so far we've represented ourselves real well against high quality competition."
NAU also got a pair of scoring efforts from senior Rachel Palmer. Palmer continued her strong swimming this weekend with a 12th place finish in the 400 IM and a 16th place finish in the 100 fly. Freshman Urte Kazakeviciute also contributed with a 14th place finish in the 100 breast.
The Lumberjacks began the day in a big way in the first preliminaries in the 400 IM. Swimming the event for the first time this season, Brown and Palmer both posted top-10 qualifying times. Brown advanced to the night's top-eight heat with a time of 4:25.12, good enough for eighth, while Palmer was one spot behind with a time of 4:25.25. Freshman Caitlin Baker sophomore Eva Pold also swam in the finals as part of the top 24.
Juergens set a new career-best in the 100 fly, finishing seventh in the preliminary swims with a time of 55.69. Palmer earned her second qualification with a time of 56.09, also a career-best, and gave the Lumberjacks two finalists in the event. Senior Emma Lowther (21st, 1:52.25), junior Caitlin Wright (25th, 1:52.69) and freshman Kathryn Palomino (31st, 1:53.09) all qualified in the 200 free.
NAU placed five swimmers in the finals of the 100 breast. Smith led the way with a sixth-place prelim time of 1:04.00 and Kazakeviciute cracked the top-16 scoring spots with a time of 1:04.65. The other qualifiers included senior Jordan Burnes (20th, 1:05.24), Baker (23rd, 1:06.11) and sophomore Monica Pruett (32nd, 1:06.91). The Lumberjacks' remaining finalists were freshman Jori Lindquist (26th, 57.42) and sophomore Trinity Frazee (32nd, 57.79) in the 200 back.
The Lumberjacks' 'A' 200 medley relay team scored with a 16th place finish with a time of 1:46.60. In the night's final women's event – the 800 free relay – NAU placed 13th with a time of 7:40.88. The 'A' team was led by a strong first leg by Lowther, who's split of 1:51.18 bests the WAC's top 200 freestyle time entering the week.
Thirteen Lumberjacks set new career-best times on Friday with six of them coming in the 100 fly. In addition to Juergens and Palmer, the quartet of Palomino, Wright, sophomore Brooke Brittain and Kazakeviciute recorded their fastest times in the 100 fly. Palominio picked up her second career-best time in the 200 free, as did Lindquist, sophomore Cassie Ronai and senior Andrea Derflinger. Kazakeviciute and Baker posted their fastest 100 breast times of their first season and Lindquist, sophomore Lindsay Clark-Warren, freshman Sara Lenhoff all swam their fastest times in the 100 back. Lowther wrapped up NAU's lifetime-best swims in the 400 IM.
In Tucson, sophomore Chelsea Jackson had the diving team's best showing in the first day of the Wildcat Diving Invitational. With all of the competition's divers facing inclement weather, Jackson prevailed to advance to the finals of the day's 3-meter competition. She improved slightly on her prelim score of 269.45 and jumped up a spot to finish the day in seventh with a score of 269.75. Senior Gwen Smithberg was the Lumberjacks' next finisher in 25th with a score of 222.55. Sophomore Carlye Townsend (35th), freshman Alexa Geiger (39th) and senior Jane Wakefield (40th) rounded out NAU's diving contingent.
"Chelsea did a great job making the finals," said diving coach Nikki Huffman. "There are a couple of divers here that have been to Olympic and World Championships so for her to get into the top-8 against some of them was great. (As a team) when we missed a little bit, we came back strong and that showed how mentally prepared we were considering they were dealing with rain and wind."
The swimmers conclude the UNLV Fall Invitational on Saturday with prelims in the 200 back, 100 free, 200 breast and 200 fly at 10 a.m. The 1,650 free finals will start at 3 p.m. before the night's final events start at 5 p.m. The divers will continue the Wildcat Diving Invite at 12 p.m. on Saturday with competition on the 1-meter boards.