The Northern Arizona swimming and diving team heads out on its final road trip before next month's WAC Championships and faces a challenging slate this weekend. The swimmers will square off versus Colorado State on Friday and Northern Colorado on Saturday in dual meets, while the divers will compete in the three-day Bruin Diving Invitational starting Friday.
The NAU swimmers will first travel to Fort Collins, Colorado, where they will look to snap a two-meet losing streak to Colorado State on Friday at 5 p.m. NAU will then make the short trip to Greeley for Saturday morning's 11 a.m. dual versus WAC rival Northern Colorado. The Lumberjacks are undefeated in eight all-time meetings with the Bears.
"Colorado State is a really good team who has posted some really good swims, most recently on Monday in San Diego," said Lumberjacks head coach Andy Johns. "We're going to have some races there and they tend to swim well in their pool. Northern Colorado is a much-improved team and with the format we'll be swimming, it'll make for a close competition with them. We'll be challenged, but it's a good time of year to be racing back-to-back and against quality opponents."
Northern Arizona's swimmers will be led by a pair of upperclassmen in senior Alina Staffeldt and redshirt junior Monique King, who stood out in last Friday's dual loss to No. 17 Arizona. Staffeldt tied for first overall in the 200 butterfly to go with a fifth-place finish in the 100 fly. King recorded a pair of top-three finishes -- second in the 500 freestyle and third in the 1,000.
Freshman Sarah O'Connor also secured two top-four finishes in the backstrokes, recording a third-place finish in the 100 back and fourth in the 200.
The Lumberjacks have been led by freshman Hope Williams in the breaststroke as of late, while junior Sarah Takach and freshman Niamh McDonagh have been critical point scorers in the individual medley. Junior Andrea Schmidt aids Staffeldt's cause in the butterfly events, while King, senior Kimmy Richter and freshman Sam Milewski are a tough trio in the distance freestyle events.
NAU will need all hands on deck this weekend, with Colorado State coming into Friday's meet on a high note after sweeping through Monday's Mountain West Tri Dual. The Rams defeated Fresno State, San Diego State and New Mexico and were last season's Mountain West runner-up. Meanwhile, Northern Colorado awaits on the second half of the back-to-back and defeated Wyoming earlier this season.
The divers will face stiff competition themselves at the UCLA Bruin Diving Invitational in Los Angeles and a field including athletes from a number of Pac-12 schools among a group of teams throughout the West. The meet will begin with the 1-meter competition on Friday, followed by 3-meter on Saturday and platform on Sunday.
"I'm really excited about this invitational because a lot of the national qualifiers out of our zone will be there, so it's going to be a good test," said Lumberjacks diving coach Nikki Huffman. "It's going to prepare us for zones and conference in all three events. We're hoping for some good experience and some good things."
The Lumberjacks will send juniors Tatiana Kurach and Olivia Payne, and freshman Jenny Cheetham to UCLA this weekend. All three have already earned qualifying scores to the NCAA Zone E meet in March. Kurach and Cheetham were victorious last week on 1- and 3-meter respectively against the Wildcats. Kurach claimed first overall, while Cheetham placed second overall but ahead of Arizona's top finisher.
The large Bruin Invitational field will feature UCLA, USC, Cal, Stanford and Utah out of the Pac-12. San Diego State, Hawaii, Fresno State and San Jose State are also among those diving in Los Angeles.
Junior Christina Torrente and freshman Katie Conn will also be in competition this weekend, accompanying the swimmers in Colorado to add to the dual meet scoring.