FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – A little short on depth this season, head coach Andy Johns and diving coach Nikki Huffman addressed the issue and then some with their fall additions to the Northern Arizona swimming & diving roster for the 2017-18 season. The Lumberjacks received commitments from 10 student-athletes, all of whom will be incoming freshmen next fall.
"This class is going to address our depth that we're used to but don't really have this year," Johns said. "Six of the swimmers and two of the divers are from Arizona and they're all getting academic scholarships on top of the athletic, so that speaks to what we're excited about. They're good students and good athletes who are going to help us in a lot of ways."
The 10 new 'Jacks break down to eight swimmers and two divers. Of the 10, eight are from the state of Arizona continuing NAU's strong presence in the Phoenix Valley especially.
The lone in-state signee not from the Valley is Lauren Hazel, a local product right out of Flagstaff High School. Hazel, a sprint freestyler and backstroker, was recently named the Arizona Daily Sun Girls Swimmer of the Year for the second consecutive year. She placed fifth in the 100 backstroke (58.56) and 14th in the 100 freestyle (55.01) at the Division II State Championships this fall.
"I've known Lauren and her family for a long time," Johns. "She's excited to be a Lumberjack and stay in town. We see a ton of potential in her and her attitude in coming here is infectious."
Heading down to the Valley, Johns made a coup starting with a pair of teammates – Natalie Dinch and Sam Seiber – from Liberty High School. At the Division II State Championships this year, Dinch – a sprint freestyle specialist – placed ninth in both the 50 free (24.92) and 100 free (53.59). Meanwhile, Seiber – a breaststroker and individual medley swimmer – placed fifth in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.71) and 14th in the 200 individual medley (2:15.70). Both swimmers also swam on Liberty's fourth-place 200 free relay team and seventh-place 200 medley relay team and helped their school to a ninth-place team finish in the state.
"They swam for a former swimmer of mine, Jessi Jones, in high school and swam for the same club team with the Westside Silver Fins," Johns said. "They're starting to develop into really good swimmers and they're excited about coming to NAU. They're solid students and that'll help continue our tradition of having solid student-athletes in the classroom."
Sam Milewski and Maddie Seidl both swim for Scottsdale Aquatic Club and themselves are coming off successful performances at the Arizona state championship meet. Milewski, a mid-distance freestyler, was a key contributor to Arcadia High School's state Division II runner-up team finisher. Individually, she placed second in both the 200 free (1:52.19) and 500 free (4:56.25) and also swam on Arcadia's second-place 200 medley and 400 medley relays. Seidl, a butterflier and IMer out of Basha High School, competed at the Division I State Championships and finished fifth in the 200 IM (2:08.07) and eighth in the 100 fly (57.21).
"Both Sam and Maddie are coming off great high school state meets," Johns said. "Sam will contribute in the 200 and 500 free and posted times that would score at our conference meet. Maddie helps address the IM need that we have. Like all of our Phoenix girls, they come from great clubs and we're happy that they're joining us."
Elisa Rodriguez will be a familiar face for a pair of Lumberjacks having been teammates with current juniors Audrey and Allison Mann at Sunnyslope High School and Phoenix Swim Club. Rodriguez helped Sunnyslope to a seventh-place finish in the Division II state standings, and was the state runner-up in the 50 free (24.02). The sprint freestyler also placed sixth in the 100 free (52.63).
"Elisa was a late addition and she loved her visit to campus," Johns said. "She's a sprint freestyler who can also swim the butterfly and she's just beginning to get into year-round swimming. She has a ton of potential."
Huffman also dipped in-state to get a pair of divers, Jenny Cheetham and Emily Sharrer. Cheetham claimed the state championship at the Division II meet on the 1-meter springboard and earned all 20 of Shadow Mountain High School's team points. Her score of 459.20 crushed all of her competitors, as she took home the individual state title by more than 25 points. She finished sixth as a freshman and second as both a sophomore and junior.
"Jenny's score at the state championships was the highest of all three divisions," Huffman said. "She's a very strong springboard diver, especially on 1-meter, and in our program she can go a lot further. As good as she is right now, she has the potential to improve a lot more."
Sharrer currently dives for the Tucson Diving Team and has numerous USA Diving and AAU Diving experience. This year alone, she placed 10th on 1-meter at the USA Diving National Zone F Meet and 10th and 15th on 1-meter and 3-meter respectively at the USA Diving Junior Region 11 Championships. Last year, she qualified for the USA Diving ATT National Diving Championships on 3-meter.
"Emily has been a diver I've known and been able to watch throughout the years with the Tucson club team," Huffman said. "She's a solid diver who has done big dives from a young age. Her consistency has always been pretty strong and when she's in a college program, she'll be ready to take off and do even more."
Reaching outside of the state, NAU brought in Teresa Cobb from Bend, Ore., Hope Williams from El Campo, Texas and Katie Conn from Broomfield, Colo. Cobb and Williams are both swimmers.
Cobb is a backstroker and individual medley swimmer out of Mountain View High School. At this past spring's Oregon 5A State Championships, Cobb placed fourth in the 200 IM (2:08.79) as a junior and will look to improve on that finish in her final prep season. She also placed second in the 500 free (5:09.50) and swam the first leg of Mountain View's first-place 200 free relay team. Additionally, she swam the backstroke in the 200 medley relay team that finished second.
"Teresa comes from a great club team and we're excited to have another Oregonian on our squad," Johns said. "She's going to help us in the IMs and we need help there. She has some solid backstroke experience as well."
Williams is currently wrapping up her final season at El Campo High School and is a three-time state qualifier in the breaststroke. As a junior, she was named to the All-State team in the 50 free and 100 breast. A multi-sport athlete, Williams will focus on the breaststroke at NAU and is coming off an eighth-place finish in the 100 breast (1:07.69) at the Texas 5A State Championships.
"Hope is a three-sport athlete who plays volleyball and does track & field and swims part-time," Johns said. "We love her athleticism and with her limited swim background, we really believe she's going to get a ton better. Her and her family have been in Flagstaff a couple of times and she's really excited to be joining the team."