With the divers taking the day off, senior Alina Staffeldt did what she does best -- triumph over her conference competition -- to make a splash on the third day of the WAC Championships at Houston's CRWC Natatorium for the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. Staffeldt won her school-record ninth conference gold medal in the 100 butterfly to lead the team into Saturday's final day of competition.
Now with 545 team points, NAU holds a 130-point advantage over Idaho, which is second with 415 points, with seven events remaining. New Mexico State is not far behind Idaho in third with 400 points.
"We battled and we were tough, we only lost 13 points to Idaho overall," said Lumberjacks head coach Andy Johns. "We still have a pretty good cushion because our girls just raced. We had some really great performances from Alina and Monique (King), but really across the board. We had a lot of lifetime bests, and they don't always show up in a podium finish. They're really important to sustaining the energy and momentum, and there's a lot of that going on."
Staffeldt clocked a season-best time of 54.14 to win a closely contested 100 butterfly 'A' final, with the three medalists finishing less than a half-second of each other. Staffeldt, who went into the finals with the fastest preliminary time of 54.26, defended her individual conference title in the 100 fly with her NCAA 'B' cut time.
Staffeldt is a three-time 100 butterfly champion, having won the event as a freshman and a junior. Of her nine golds, five are individual events. She will attempt to three-peat in the 200 butterfly on Saturday.
The action Friday, the third day of the event, began in the 400 individual medley when junior Sarah Takach earned her best career conference finish of fifth with a time of 4:23.04. It was a two-place improvement from last year when she finished seventh. Freshman Niamh McDonagh competed in her first career 'A' final and was one spot behind Takach in sixth with a time of 4:23.87.
A pair of freshmen was NAU's fastest in the 100 breaststroke and 100 backstroke, as Hope Williams and Sarah O'Connor represented the Lumberjacks in the top eight finals. Williams recorded a time of 1:04.02 to finish sixth in the 100 breast, and O'Connor placed seventh in the 100 back with a time of 56.42.
The night ended with NAU finishing fourth in the 400 medley relay. Sarah O'Connor, Hope Williams, Staffeldt and Elisa Rodriguez lowered their seed time by more than four seconds to 3:45.20.
The championships will conclude with the 200 back, 100 free, 200 breast, 200 fly, platform diving, mile freestyle and 400 freestyle relay on Saturday. Prelims for the first four events will start at 9:30 a.m., with the divers back in action at 11:15 a.m. The mile will kick off the 5 p.m. evening session preceding the finals for the remainder of the events.
The women's tennis team improved its record to 5-2 with a 6-1 home victory over Montana Friday, increasing its win streak to five straight matches.
"We came out really good today, and it is great to see our first conference win of the season," said Lumberjacks head coach Maciej Bogusz.
Northern Arizona swept the board in doubles with wins from duo Hanneke Lodewijks and Ellie Millard, 6-1, and pair Chiara Tomasetti and Madi Moore, 6-2. Eirene Granville and Cora-Lynn von Dungern were in the lead 5-2 before the clinch.
Singles was no different for the Jacks, who notched five matches all in two sets.
Tomasetti, Lodewijks, Millard, Granville and Moore all defeated their Grizzly opponents.
The Lumberjacks won the match 4-0 before finishing out the remaining courts, with Millard's 6-3, 6-2 win over Catherine Orfanos at the No. 3 position.
Northern Arizona will host the Wyoming Cowgirls Saturday at the Aquatic and Tennis Complex. The match is set to begin at 4:30 p.m. and is free to all fans. Fans will be given a 7000s T-shirt and are encouraged to wear white.
The men's tennis won its Big Sky Conference opener Friday, beating the hosting Portland State Vikings, 6-1
The Lumberjacks improved to 2-4 overall with the win. They started off strong with Thomas Fisher and Felix Schumann picking up the first doubles win, 6-2, over Portland State's Sam Roberts and Majeed Bukhari.
The Jacks fell at the No. 2 position, but Tim Handel and Ruben Montano finished it off with a 7-6 (4) clinch.
In singles, the Lumberjacks took the next three points, recording the victory at 4-0 before finishing out the remainder of matches. NAU's Lucas Taylor, Schumann, Fisher, Handel and Montano all won.
The Jacks will remain on the road to compete against the Oregon Ducks Saturday at 10 a.m.