FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. and TOPEKA, Kan. – The Northern Arizona swimming & diving team got their invitational-filled weekend off to a successful start on Friday at the Lumberjack Diving Invitational and Kansas Classic respectively. Highlighting the day was sophomore Raquel Gonzales' win on platform in the divers' season debut on the tower.
"Raquel won platform and just missed her (NCAA Zone) qualifying score by less than a point," said diving coach Nikki Huffman. "They were all consistent. There were a couple of places we could've been a little sharper, but all in all we were very consistent and did a great job."
Gonzales led four Lumberjack divers in the top 14 of the platform competition as they dove off the tower for the first time this season. Gonzales came up just shy of earning an NCAA Zone Diving qualifying score with her winning total of 224.15. Sophomores Tanya Kurach and Christina Torrente placed fourth and ninth overall respectively, while sophomore Olivia Payne came in 14th in the 21-diver platform field.
To open NAU's first-ever home diving invite, senior Alexa Geiger placed fourth overall in the finals with a score of 278.50. She improved her score from the preliminaries and as a result moved up a spot in the final standings. She was joined in the 12-diver finals by Kurach and Torrente who placed seventh and eighth. Kurach posted a finals score of 267.25 and Torrente wound up with a score of 251.85 and like Geiger, both improved on their prelim totals.
At the Kansas Classic, the NAU swimmers posted a solid showing against a field including Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa State. As they have done on numerous occasions this season, juniors Kimmy Richter, Roni Houck and Alina Staffeldt led the way on the first day of competition.
In the 500 freestyle, Richter posted the third-best prelims time of 4:55.08 and wound up in sixth in the finals. Her prelims time was seven seconds faster than her entry time and set the tone for the rest of the day. Houck and Staffeldt also collected top eight finishes in the 50 free, with Houck and Staffeldt occupying the seventh and eighth spots. Their finals times were a tick off from their preliminary showings, with Houck and Staffeldt each clocking their own season-best times of 23.61 and 23.62 respectively in the morning.
Season-bests were the theme of the day and should continue to be throughout the weekend. In all, NAU had 10 swimmers qualify for night swims against the stacked field.
Junior Claire Hammond and freshman Erin Spielman both improved on their already season-best prelim 500 free times in the evening, with Hammond eventually posting a time of 5:01.02 in the finals – more than 13 seconds faster than her previous best. Spielman swam 5:10.99 in the finals herself.
Junior Audrey Mann was the Lumberjacks' lead swimmer in the third individual event of the day – the 200 individual medley – recording a finals time of 2:07.95 which bested her entry time by five seconds. Sophomore Sarah Takach (2:08.78) and senior Sara Lenhoff (2:10.32) also swam at night in the 200 IM finals.
"Today was great racing from everyone," said head coach Andy Johns. "The competition is tough. We were a little better this morning than tonight, but some of our girls raced a lot in a short period of time. Overall, we're happy and most of our team still has their best events to come in the next two days."
NAU also competed in a pair of relays on Thursday night finishing sixth in both the 200 freestyle and 400 medley relays. Staffeldt, Schmidt, Montiel and Houck posted a time of 1:34.99 in the 200 free relay, while Lenhoff, senior Urte Kazakeviciute, Staffeldt and Houck touched the wall in 3:47.05. Both times were season-bests.
Both the Lumberjack teams will compete at their respective meets on Saturday. The divers will compete on the 3-meter springboard starting at 11 a.m. in the Aquatic and Tennis Complex. Meanwhile, the swimmers will start day two of the Kansas Classic at 9 a.m. Arizona time.