With their first dual meet of the season three weeks away, the Northern Arizona swimming and diving team jumps back into the Aquatic and Tennis Complex waters Friday for their annual Blue vs. Gold intrasquad meet. The Lumberjacks' final tune-up will begin at 2 p.m. and is free for all fans to attend.
"It's a little different than the pentathlon because they'll be swimming more of their specialties and they get a little more rest in between races. So it's a little more like a real dual meet in those respects," said Lumberjacks head coach Andy Johns.
Northern Arizona's six seniors will split, with Claire Hammond, Allison Mann and Alina Staffeldt leading Blue, and Roni Houck, Audrey Mann and Kimmy Richter guiding the Gold.
With Richter and redshirt junior Monique King, the Gold team would appear to have the edge in the 500 freestyle, with Houck adding to their coup in the 200 freestyle. Houck is also NAU's top returning sprinter in the 50 and 100 freestyle. The Blue team will counter with Hammond and freshman Sam Milewski in the 200 and 500. Staffeldt and freshman Elisa Rodriguez could be among those set to challenge in the sprint events.
Top returning backstroker sophomore Fernanda Montiel is on the Blue team, while a pair of newcomers, freshman Sarah O'Connor and Lauren Hazel, will be on the opposite squad. To combat Staffeldt in the butterfly events, Gold will turn to Richter, junior Andrea Schmidt and sophomore Kate Bier.
In the breaststroke, Audrey Mann, sophomore Emily Martin and freshman Sam Seiber could provide the Gold team with the edge with the Blue team sporting junior Sarah Takach. Freshman Niamh McDonagh could aid Takach there while holding down the fort in the individual medley two weeks after winning the Pentathlon.
The team's divers will make their season debut, with three of the four returning Lumberjacks -- juniors Raquel Gonzales, Olivia Payne and Christina Torrente -- competing on the Blue team along with freshman Katie Conn. Junior Tatiana Kurach, a 2017 NCAA Championships participant, will lead the Gold team with freshmen Jenny Cheetham and Emily Sharrer.
Last year, the 2016 Blue vs. Gold meet came down to the final event, with Staffeldt beating Houck to the wall in the 200 free relay to clinch a 54-50 Gold team victory.