FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. and TOPEKA, Kan. – The Northern Arizona swimmers made big moves and continued to record season-best times on the second day of the Kansas Classic, while the divers concluded the Lumberjack Diving Invitational at home on Saturday with another set of impressive results.
"We had another good session and we swam faster tonight," said head coach Andy Johns. "Alina (Staffeldt) and our butterfliers swam well and Claire Hammond followed in the 200 free with a top eight finish. Our breaststrokers swam great and Sara Lenhoff swam well in a swim-off in the backstroke. We're close to Northern Iowa in the team standings and tomorrow will be another good day. I like the energy and attitude of our team."
NAU took advantage of the plethora of finals heats to post a number of swimmers in the evening session. A total of 16 swimmers competed led by the trio of juniors Alina Staffeldt and Claire Hammond and senior Urte Kazakeviciute. In the 100 butterfly, Staffeldt improved her prelim spot by three and placed third overall in the finals with a season-best time of 54.48. Hammond placed sixth in the 200 freestyle finals with a time of 1:51.86, just a mere three-tenths of a second off her season-best time in the morning's preliminary. Lastly, Kazakeviciute made it three Lumberjacks to place in the top six of their events with a fourth-place finish in the 100 breaststroke with a season-best time of 1:03.47.
Behind Staffeldt's third-place finish, the 100 fly finals were filled with Lumberjacks. Junior Kimmy Richter won the second final and placed ninth overall with a time of 55.77, while sophomore Andrea Schmidt finished 12th with a time of 56.52. Both times were season-bests for the pair as was freshman Kate Bier's time of 57.49 to place 17th. Fellow freshman Allison Baldwin recorded a time of 58.77 in the finals, just a tick off her fastest time of her young career – 58.32 – in the prelims and posted a 26th place finish.
Kazakeviciute paced a strong showing in the 100 breast with a total of four 'Jacks in the night finals. Freshman Emily Martin finished in 15th with junior Audrey Mann two spots back in 17th. Mann posted a season-best time of 1:05.78 in the finals and Martin was at 1:06.00 in the prelims for her fastest time yet. Junior Roni Houck qualified for the finals herself with a morning time for 1:06.32 and finished 22nd overall.
Freshman Alice Hick (1:56.98) and sophomore Logan Neal (1:58.40) placed 27th and 29th in the evening finals of the 200 free. Neal in particular went over four seconds faster in the final than she had done previously coming into the meet. Also of note, Richter turned in a time of 1:51.08 – faster than even Hammond – in the morning as an exhibition swimmer.
For the first time this season, NAU's individual medley swimmers – Takach and Audrey Mann – competed in the grueling 400 IM. Takach showed massive improvement over the course of the day, turning in a time of 4:33.19 in the finals – more than three seconds faster than her morning time of 4:36.62. Mann only swam in the morning as an exhibition swimmer and recorded a time of 4:36.55.
Senior Sara Lenhoff was NAU's top finisher in the 100 backstroke toughing out a long day that included a swim-off in the morning. She finished 16th in the finals and freshman Fernanda Montiel was not far behind in 18th with her best time of 57.86. Junior Allison Mann closed out NAU's backstrokers in 26th with her own season-best time of 59.34.
To start off the night session, the Lumberjacks placed ninth in the 200 medley relay with Lenhoff, Kazakeviciute, Staffeldt and Houck lowering their season-best time to 1:45.00. Then in the final event of the night, the 'Jacks ended in style finishing fifth in the 800 freestyle relay. The team of Richter, Staffeldt, Hick and Hammond nearly beat NAU's entry time by nine seconds and wound up at 7:33.16.
One day after placing first in the platform competition, sophomore Raquel Gonzales posted a nice follow-up to conclude the Lumberjack Diving Invite. Gonzales was the lone NAU diver to make the 3-meter springboard finals and placed seventh overall. Her prelims score of 273.05 was good for fifth in the qualifying round and she totaled a score of 257.95 in the final.
Sophomore Christina Torrente was the next Lumberjack, placing 16th with a score of 231.15. Sophomores Tanya Kurach and Olivia Payne rounded out the NAU divers with scores of 227.90 and 197.25 respectively. But despite the slightly uneven results today, NAU's first home diving invite was an overall success against a field including four Mountain West schools and WAC rival New Mexico State.
"What was nice was that everyone had a good competition," said diving coach Nikki Huffman. "Everyone was solid on platform (yesterday) and Lex (Geiger), Tanya and Christina all dove great on 1-meter. Raquel was the real highlight winning platform and she really dove well. She was real close to being a little higher today (on 3-meter).
NAU's swimmers will close the weekend on Sunday with the final day of the Kansas Classic. Morning preliminaries will start at 9 a.m. with the finals set to start at 2:30 p.m. Both times are local to Flagstaff.