BOISE, Idaho and COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The Northern Arizona swimming & diving team concluded their regular season on Saturday with split competitions and positive results. Although the swimmers dropped both of their dual meets, 163.5-84.5 to Boise State and 144-113 to Nevada, NAU picked up three overall event wins. Meanwhile, the divers once again placed a pair in the 3-meter finals on the last day of the Air Force Diving Invitational.
Starting with the swimmers, NAU faced tough competition against the reigning top two teams from the Mountain West Conference in its double dual at Boise State. Senior Urte Kazakeviciute won the 100 breaststroke outright, while she tied for the first overall spot in the 200 breast. Junior Alina Staffeldt posted NAU's third overall event win in the 200 butterfly.
Head-to-head against Nevada, last year's Mountain West champs, NAU split the 14 event order down the middle with each team posting seven victories. The meet came down to the wire as NAU trailed by just 16 points going into the final events before Nevada sealed up the dual win in the 200 individual medley and 400 freestyle relay.
"Against Nevada, we won seven of the 14 swimming events and it was close going into the IM and the last relay, but they pulled away from us there," said head coach Andy Johns. "Boise and Nevada were both really good and this was a good trip that allowed us to focus on what we need to do. We're looking forward to the next three weeks of resting and refining to get us ready to go to Houston."
After NAU placed fourth in the 200 medley relay, junior Kimmy Richter placed fourth overall in the 1,000 freestyle with a time of 10:30.80. That was good for first head-to-head with Nevada, and freshman Erin Spielman made it one-two versus the Wolf Pack with a sixth-place time of 11:04.12. Kazakeviciute then posted the first of her two victories with a time of 1:04.03 in the 100 breast, which Staffeldt followed with a winning 200 fly time of 2:04.03. Richter also placed fourth in the 200 fly.
Junior Roni Houck capped the first half of the meet with a third-place time of 24.34 in the 50 free. She narrowly edged out Nevada's top swimmer by .01 seconds to gain a first-place victory in the head-to-head. In the latter half of the meet, Kazakeviciute earned a tie for first with an identical time of 2:17.46 in the 200 breast with Boise State's top finisher before Richter collected her third fourth overall place finish of the day in the 500 free with a time of 5:06.16. Staffeldt rounded out NAU's highlights with a third-place overall finish – and first versus Nevada – in the 100 fly with a time of 57.02.
At the Air Force Academy, sophomore Tanya Kurach shined once again with a second-place overall finish in the 3-meter competition. After ranking fourth following the prelims, Kurach posted a score of 311.30 in the finals to move up two spots. She finished the two-day meet with two runner-up finishes along with a sixth-place spot on platform.
Senior Alexa Geiger also qualified for the finals and finished in seventh with a score of 255.10 in the final round. Sophomore Olivia Payne posted a season-best score of 246.85 – her second season-best of the weekend – to place 14th overall and was NAU's next highest finisher. Sophomore Raquel Gonzales (18th) and sophomore Christina Torrente (22nd) rounded out the Lumberjack divers as all five of them placed in the upper third of the 64-entry competition.
"Today's 3-meter went very well," said diving coach Nikki Huffman. "Lex did a great job doing a couple of new dives to make finals, and Tanya ended up second to finish up with two seconds and a sixth. Raquel was actually sitting in the last finals spot before she did a new dive and had a great day after a solid platform yesterday. Christina also did a solid job while the meet of the day came from Olivia who had the best 3-meter meet we've seen from her."
The 'Jacks will now train and get ready for the WAC Championships from Feb. 22-25 in Houston, Texas. NAU will enter the conference meet as the three-time defending WAC champions.