FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – After adding 10 incoming freshmen to their 2017-18 roster during the fall signing period, the Northern Arizona swimming & diving team nabbed three more new Lumberjacks last week bringing their incoming class up to a whopping 13 for next season. The spring additions will each be welcomed for what they will bring to the table, bolstering the four-time defending WAC champion squad.
"Our roster was a little thin this year, and we needed to address our depth," said head coach Andy Johns. "This class definitely does that. Looking back to those we signed in the fall, a couple of them had really good winter and spring meets and have really taken off. This turned out to be a heck of a class, including these three, and we're going to need them as we continue to try to get better."
Katie Conn, out of Broomfield, Colo., is the third new incoming diver in this class. A relative newcomer to diving, Conn was an eighth-place finisher as a junior at the CHSAA 5A State Championships on 1-meter with a score of 419.45. Conn holds her school record at Broomfield High School for six dives and will bring a lot of potential to NAU's exceptional diving unit which returns four sophomores along with the three incoming freshmen.
"Katie doesn't have as much experience on the national level as our other two new divers (from the fall), but she is determined and really excited to be at NAU," said diving coach Nikki Huffman. "With that enthusiasm and drive, I believe that she can do well in this program and will improve throughout her years here."
NAU went the international route with its two spring signees on the swimming side starting with Niamh McDonagh. The Stockton-on-Tees, England native will be a huge boost with her outstanding background in the individual medley. Last August, McDonagh won the Target Tokyo final of the 400m IM with a time of 4:51.44 while also being a finalist in the 200m IM. She has also been a national finalist in both the 200m and 400m individual medleys at the British Championships.
"Niamh's best event is the 400 IM and she's really good at the 200 IM," Johns said. "We'll figure out her third event, but her 400 IM time tells me she's pretty good at everything. We needed help in the individual medleys so she helps fill a huge hole. We feel fortunate that she chose to come to NAU and she's going to be a good one."
The Lumberjacks dipped into their New Zealand pipeline for their final spring addition in Sarah O'Connor. Hailing from Wellington, New Zealand, O'Connor is an established backstroker in the country having been a finalist in both the 100m and 200m backstrokes at the New Zealand Open Championships last year. She holds the long course 100m and 200m backstroke Wellington records in addition to the 50m and 100m backstroke short course College Sport Wellington records.
"Sarah's 200 backstroke is going to be really close to where Sara (Lenhoff) was," Johns said. "She's going to be able to come right in and contribute right away. Having another swimmer from New Zealand is great, and that connection is strong. She's at a place where she's going to come in and get better once we can get her on a solid training program."
NAU's 10 fall incoming freshmen can be read about in detail here.