NAU Wins Five Events, Derails Oregon State for Second Straight Year

Urte Kazakeviciute
Urte Kazakeviciute

TUCSON, Ariz. – The trip down to Tucson was a highly successful one on Friday for the Northern Arizona swimming & diving team as they handed Oregon State a loss for the second straight year, 167-125. The Lumberjacks also more than held their own against Arizona, ranked No. 8 nationally, falling 178-118, in the double dual also featuring WAC rival New Mexico State.

NAU's level of success – particularly against Arizona – was evident in its five overall event wins, just a year after claiming just one event win in the annual meet at UA's Hillenbrand Aquatic Center. Senior Urte Kazakeviciute was the star posting wins in both breaststroke events, while senior Alexa Geiger and sophomore Tanya Kurach swept the diving events. Junior Alina Staffeldt also picked up a victory in the 200 butterfly.

"We started out strong head-to-head against Oregon State," said head coach Andy Johns. "We knew Oregon State had a good backstroker and we did a good job minimizing her. The area that could've gone either way was the breaststrokes and Urte was just fantastic. When we found out our divers went one-two against Arizona, that was a big boost. The overall wins might be one of the best ever we've had against some really good competition."

Friday marked the second time this season which NAU has competed against Arizona. Kazakeviciute and Staffeldt both defended their wins in the 200 breast and 200 fly respectively, while Kurach won the 1-meter springboard for the second time as well going back to the teams' first meeting on Oct. 8.

Including the five overall wins, NAU posted head-to-head victories against Oregon State in 10 of 16 events. Junior Kimmy Richter won all three of her events head-to-head against the Beavers in the 200, 500 and 1,000 freestyles. Junior Roni Houck also claimed victory in the 50 and 100 freestyles.

Meanwhile, the NAU divers were at the top of the leaderboard on Friday on both the 1-meter and 3-meter springboards. On 1-meter, Kurach won the competition by a wide margin with a season-best score of 307.35 – more than 40 points better than the runner-up. Geiger placed third overall with a score of 263.70, and the pair combined to go one-two head-to-head with Arizona.

The Lumberjacks took the 3-meter competition one step further going one-two-three versus the Wildcats with Geiger leading the way with a winning score of 270.45. Sophomore Christina Torrente placed third overall and Kurach was in fourth as the three 'Jacks were only separated by a New Mexico State diver.

"We have two with injuries and one who was sick today, but all of divers did a great job especially coming off a really hard week of training," said diving coach Nikki Huffman. "Tanya's performance on 3-meter was her most consistent on her list of big dives and Lex missed a couple, but hit a couple of big dives. They keep pushing and pushing and it was a great overall effort today."

After NAU's 'A' team placed fourth overall in the 200 medley relay, Richter (third overall, 10:38.67) and freshman Erin Spielman (seventh overall) combined to go one-two on Oregon State in the 1,000 free. Richter immediately bounced back with a time of 1:54.87 in the 200 free to place fourth overall, as junior Claire Hammond was one spot back in another top two finish against the Beavers.

Freshman Fernanda Montiel and senior Sara Lenhoff negated Oregon State's win in the 100 backstroke by going two-three head-to-head with OSU – the first of two times in the backstroke – before Kazakeviciute won the 100 breast with a time of 1:03.66. Staffeldt then came back to win the 200 fly with a time of 2:04.20 to mark consecutive overall wins for NAU.

Houck (24.42) and sophomore Andrea Schmidt (24.61) both finished ahead of OSU's top finisher in the 50 free going into the first break, and Houck came out of the break by clocking a time of 53.17 in the 100 free which again bested the Beavers' top swimmer.

The most impressive win of the second half of the meet came from Kazakeviciute, who crushed the field in the 200 breast with a winning time of 2:16.86. Her time was nearly five whole seconds faster than the next finisher, as she completed her best in-season meet of her career.

"This was my fourth time swimming against these girls and I was way more confident," Kazakeviciute said. "My mindset was 'whatever happens, happens,' and I felt great. We beat Oregon State by a lot, and this will only help all of us. We surprised ourselves with our times because we didn't feel great the whole week, and now we'll be ready (for the final weeks)."

NAU put the exclamation point on its meet with Oregon State in the 500 free with Richter placing second overall with a time of 5:04.28. Combined with Hammond (sixth overall) and Spielman (seventh overall), NAU claimed the top three spots against Oregon State, helping boost the 'Jacks to victory even without the diving points with the Beavers not fielding a diving squad. The win was NAU's third all-time victory against the Pac-12 school.

The Lumberjacks will take next week off before hosting their final home meet of the season on Jan. 21 in the Aquatic and Tennis Complex. NAU will welcome Northern Colorado to Flagstaff for its Senior Day meet at 11 a.m. The meet will be the final home dual for Geiger, Kazakeviciute and Lenhoff.