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'Jacks Tune Up for Regular Season with Friday's Blue vs. Gold Meet

Roni Houck
Roni Houck

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – One week after taking on Arizona and Hawaii, the Northern Arizona swimming & diving team will settle in to a more relaxed atmosphere with their annual Blue vs. Gold meet on Friday at 2 p.m. in the Aquatic and Tennis Complex. The intrasquad meet will be a 12-event order with the Lumberjack roster split into two teams competing in a dual meet setting.

"Blue and Gold is a fun meet and it's another opportunity to race," said head coach Andy Johns. "I think some of the girls were nervous last week, and this week there shouldn't be the nerves. We want to clean up a lot of the little things and we want to see some aggressiveness in the front half of their races. I want them to race in a little less stressful situation and to just relax."

During last Saturday's season-opening double dual, the Lumberjacks collected three overall event wins led by this week's WAC Swimmer of the Week, junior Alina Staffeldt's win in the 200 butterfly. Senior Urte Kazakeviciute and sophomore Tanya Kurach claimed victory in the 200 butterfly and 3-meter diving respectively. NAU also had several other standout individual performances despite suffering team losses to both Arizona and Hawaii including junior Kimmy Richter earning a set of third-place overall finishes in the 1,000 freestyle, 500 freestyle and 200 fly. On the boards, sophomore Christina Torrente placed fourth overall in both diving events.

Friday's Blue vs. Gold meet will split the team's allegiances in half during the friendly dual with senior Sara Lenhoff (Blue) and Kazakeviciute (Gold) picking the teams. The Blue team roster will feature juniors Claire Hammond and Roni Houck and sophomore Monique King appears to give them the edge in the freestyle events. Junior Audrey Mann also resides on the Blue team as the team's top individual medley swimmer thus far.

On the Gold team, they will counter with NAU's top breaststroker and butterflier in Kazakeviciute and Staffeldt. Richter provides the Gold team with a boost in the distance freestyle, while also adding in sophomore Andrea Schmidt for the sprint freestyle and butterfly and freshman Fernanda Montiel, who was the Lumberjacks' top finisher in both backstroke events last week.

The five Lumberjack divers will also see time in the meet's two springboard events after an impressive season debut last weekend. Aside from Kurach and Torrente's efforts, senior Alexa Geiger rebounded from an early season injury to place fifth overall in the 1-meter competition. Meanwhile, sophomores Raquel Gonzales and Olivia Payne look to build on their first competition of the season on Friday.

"I hope our consistency gets better," said diving coach Nikki Huffman. "To be honest, this week we got back to basics and fundamentals to retune. Blue and Gold is a chance for us to compete again which is always good. I'm happy with what've done so far, and after Friday we'll push our optionals and our harder divers over the next two weeks to get ready for New Mexico."

Geiger and Torrente are slated to compete on the Blue team, while Gonzales, Kurach and Payne are lined up on the Gold squad.

Last season, the Blue team dominated by winning eight of the 12 events to post a 60-44 victory. Returning event winners include Richter (200m free), Houck (50m free), Staffeldt (150m fly), Kazakeviciute (150m breast) and sophomore Logan Neal (100m free). Richter, Staffeldt and Kazakeviciute all swam for the winning Blue team.

The Blue vs. Gold meet will be free for all fans to attend and is part of NAU swimming & diving's Alumni Weekend. For more information regarding the weekend's activities, in conjunction with NAU Homecoming, please click HERE.