FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Less than a month remains before the Northern Arizona swimming & diving team will defend their Western Athletic Conference championship. With that in mind, this week's separate competitions for the Lumberjack swimmers and divers will take on extra importance as that is all that stands between the team and the conference meet.
The NAU swimmers will face Boise State on Friday in Boise, Idaho before adding Nevada into the mix on Saturday for a double dual in their final meet of the regular season. Meanwhile, the divers will be among a number of teams at the Air Force Diving Invitational Friday and Saturday at the Air Force Academy.
"We have to figure out some scoring spots and what events some of our swimmers will be swimming in four weeks (at the conference championships)," said head coach Andy Johns. "But really it's our last chance to practice everything we've been working on all year long under meet conditions. It's high quality of competition, and yet we need to learn how to focus on ourselves and swim as well as we can."
While the swimmers will be in Boise to face the Mountain West Conference's top two teams last season, the divers will meet up with a number of Mountain West teams and more in their return to the Air Force Diving Invite. Among the teams at the invitational will be Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State, BYU, Utah and Wyoming.
"This is a very important meet for a number of reasons," said diving coach Nikki Huffman. "There will be more than 50 divers, which will be more of the size of Zones and it'll be bigger than conference, so there are a lot of good things that come with that. We'll get 1-meter, 3-meter and platform competition and that's huge. It'll be a meet that we want to dive well, but if we don't then we'll know where we need to improve on over the next few weeks before conference."
On the swimming side, senior Urte Kazakeviciute seems to be gearing up at the right time of the season having won two of the last three WAC Swimmer of the Week awards. She is currently ranked sixth in the conference in the 100 breaststroke and fourth in the 200 breaststroke. Junior Alina Staffeldt, a two-time Swimmer of the Week herself this season, owns the fastest 100 and 200 butterfly times. Meanwhile, junior Kimmy Richter is in the top five of four events – the 200, 500, 1,000 and mile freestyles.
Both senior Alexa Geiger, a two-time WAC Diver of the Week, and sophomore Tanya Kurach are second and third on 1-meter and 3-meter in the conference. Kurach is also third on platform – an event in which sophomore Raquel Gonzales owns the highest score in the WAC this season. This weekend will mark NAU's second and final competition on platform before heading to Houston.
NAU and Boise State will square off in a non-traditional dual meet on Friday at 5 p.m. to open the weekend. The meet will include 50s of the butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke along with a 100 individual medley and a 10x50 freestyle relay. The defending Mountain West champions, Nevada, will join both squads on Saturday with the meet scheduled to start at 11 a.m.
"(Friday) will be a speed meet and it's going to be fun," Johns said. "It's a great way to get the travel out of our system, and a good practice before Saturday. It takes a little pressure off of the weekend."
The divers will compete in two events on Friday and conclude with the final event on Saturday. Friday's competition will start with the 1-meter preliminaries at 10 a.m. followed by the 1-meter finals. The platform competition will start at 5:15 p.m. Saturday's 3-meter competition will start at 11 a.m.