FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona swimming & diving team enters the 2016-17 season as three-time defending Western Athletic Conference champions and the schedule lined up by head coach Andy Johns signifies the stature of the program. In the season schedule released on Tuesday, the Lumberjacks will a total of nine events in the brand new Aquatic and Tennis Complex and a host of well-known names on deck.
Sandwiched between the team's annual intrasquad Pentathlon (Sept. 23) and Blue vs. Gold meet (Oct. 14), the Lumberjacks will host Arizona and Hawaii on Oct. 8 for their first ever dual meet in their new facility. The historic first dual meet will feature NAU's neighbor from Tucson, with Arizona making their first ever appearance in Flagstaff, as well as Hawaii, who has not competed in Flagstaff since 1991. Along with the women's double dual, Arizona and Hawaii will also compete in a men's dual meet.
"It's a great opportunity to start the season with two quality opponents both in the pool and especially on the boards," Johns said. "We're excited that both of those squads are coming here and we'll also be able to showcase men's swimming. It's also going to be our Cancer Awareness meet, so there'll be a lot going on."
This year, the Blue vs. Gold meet will be part of Alumni Weekend in conjunction with Northern Arizona University's Homecoming Weekend. Prior to the homecoming football game on Oct. 15, Johns and the NAU swimming & diving program will host an Alumni Meet, which all former Lumberjack swimmers and divers are encourage to register for HERE.
Following traditional names to NAU's schedule – all on the road – New Mexico (Oct. 29), Washington State (Nov. 3) and Idaho (Nov. 4), the middle of November will be brand new territory for the 'Jacks. At home, NAU will host the Lumberjack Diving Invitational in the ATC for the first time ever on Nov. 18-19, while the NAU swimmers will travel to Topeka, Kan. for the Kansas Classic from Nov. 18-20. There, the Lumberjacks will compete against swimmers from Iowa State, Nebraska, Arkansas-Little Rock and Northern Iowa along with host Kansas.
The unfamiliar names on the schedule will also include Arizona State, who NAU has not faced since the 2012-13 season, in Tempe on Dec. 16 and two duals against Boise State on Jan. 27-28. On the second of two days in Boise, NAU will also square off against Nevada. The Lumberjacks last competed against Boise State in 2009 and Nevada the year prior.
"Parts of our schedule look familiar, but we're excited to be competing against ASU and the Kansas Invite is a new event for us as well as hosting a diving invite," Johns said. "Going to Boise State, with Nevada there also, is tough. We've got a tough schedule this year, but I think it will help us be prepared for the end of February. We're excited to compete against some new teams and others we haven't seen for a while and we're looking forward to the challenges this schedule presents."
The rest of the schedule includes home dual meets against New Mexico State on Dec. 3 and Northern Colorado on Jan. 20-21, as well as the team's annual trip to Tucson for their Pac-12 double dual with Arizona and Oregon State on Jan. 6. The divers will make a return to the Air Force Diving Invitational after a one-year hiatus from Jan. 27-28.
For the second consecutive year, the WAC Championships will be held in Houston, Texas from Feb. 22-25. NAU will also host the NCAA Zone E Diving Championships in the ATC for the second year in a row from March 6-8 before the NCAA Championships from March 15-18 in Indianapolis, Ind.
The 'Jacks will be led by seniors Alexa Geiger, Urte Kazakeviciute and Sara Lenhoff. Geiger is the reigning WAC Diver of the Year after claiming gold on both the 1-meter and 3-meter springboards. Junior Alina Staffeldt, the 2016 WAC gold medalist in the 200 butterfly, also returns as well as juniors Claire Hammond, Roni Houck and Kimmy Richter and sophomore diver Raquel Gonzales.
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