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December 7, 2013

Seniors Lead Swimming & Diving to Win at New Mexico State

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The Northern Arizona swimming & diving team were led by two of their best on Saturday as seniors Emma Lowther and Rachel Palmer each won two individual events in the Lumberjacks' 171-129 victory over New Mexico State. The win boosted their record to 4-1 in dual meets this season and snapped a two-meet losing streak to the Aggies in Las Cruces.

"It was a really tight meet but we went one-two-three in the 200 breaststroke and that changed the entire meet for us," said head coach Andy Johns. "Then we went one-two-three in the 200 IM, so the breaststroke and the IM really sealed the deal for us. Our times weren't great, but we showed a lot of toughness and competitiveness and everyone contributed."

The day started on the 3-meter board and senior Gwen Smithberg secured the first of NAU's 10 individual victories. Smithberg's score of 271.87 edged out sophomore Chelsea Jackson's 270.82, but the duo's top-two finish gave the Lumberjacks a 15-4 lead that they would never let go of from the start.

After the Aggies won the 200 medley relay, junior Caitlin Wright and Lowther captured victories in the 1000 and 200 freestyles respectively. Through five events though, New Mexico State trailed by just five points until the Lumberjacks stemmed the tide with a critical showing in the 100 breaststroke. Senior Jordan Burnes took first with a time of 1:06.72 and senior Stirling Smith and freshman Urte Kazakeviciute finished third and fourth respectively.

Burnes' win was the first of four straight victories by the Lumberjacks as Palmer (200 fly), junior Alexis Juergens (50 free) and freshman Alexa Geiger (1-meter diving) followed with wins to push the NAU advantage out to 97-72.

New Mexico State followed with victories in the 100 free and 200 back to close within 109-98 before the crucial 200 breaststroke. Smith led the Lumberjack top-three charge with a first-place finish and freshman Caitlin Baker and Kazakeviciute were right behind. NAU followed by taking three of the top-four spots in the 500 free with Lowther's second victory of the day and Wright and sophomore Eva Pold occupying the third and fourth positions.

The Aggies responded by doing the same in the 100 fly but the Lumberjacks put the meet out of reach with Palmer, Smith and sophomore Monica Pruett going 1-2-3 in the 200 IM. The Lumberjacks finished the day with a win in the 400 free relay as the team of freshman Jori Lindquist, sophomore Trinity Frazee, Wright and Lowther finished with a time of 3:38.37.

Lowther now has nine individual wins this season, tops on the team. Palmer picked up her fourth and fifth victories and Juergens now has six. Smithberg and Geiger notched their third and second diving wins respectively.

NAU will take the remainder of the calendar year off until it returns to the pool on Jan. 3. The Lumberjacks will swim against both Arizona and Oregon State in a battle with two Pac-12 schools in Tucson, Ariz.