This weekend proved that Lumberjacks are winners. In addition to the Northern Arizona University swimming and diving team winning its fifth straight WAC title, the men and women’s track and field team swept the Big Sky Indoor Championships for the second straight year.
NAU swimmers and divers collect fifth straight WAC title
With a grand total of 18 medals, the Northern Arizona University swimming and diving team not only left the Houston meet this past weekend as five-time Western Athletic Conference (WAC) champions but also broke several school records along the way.
Over the course of the four-day meet, the Lumberjacks racked up 810 points, outdistancing themselves from the New Mexico State runner-ups. The more than 200-point margin of victory was NAU’s second-largest during its longest, and current, conference championship run in school history.
Idaho (585) and Grand Canyon (519) finished third and fourth respectively. Northern Colorado (384), CSU Bakersfield (364) and Seattle (213) rounded out the rest of the standings.
The 400-meter freestyle relay was the last and final event of the 2018 WAC Championships. NAU freshman Elisa Rodriguez and seniors Roni Houck, Kimmy Richter and Alina Staffeldt set a school record with a time of 3:23.27. The combined efforts of the senior trio, in their last collegiate race, and Rodriguez earned NAU its first relay win since joining the conference. The Lumberjacks’ last gold medal in this relay was in 1994.
“It was a lot of fun and it was the exclamation point to a great meet from start to finish,” said head coach Andy Johns. “It was so great to see and feel all the energy and emotions. (The relay) was perfect.”
Johns was named the WAC Swimming Coach of the Year for the fifth straight year and sixth time overall, and diving coach Nikki Huffman earned her third straight Co-Diving Coach of the Year recognition.
“We’re thrilled with the whole week,” Huffman said. “We had a sweep (on 3-meter), a first-second-fourth (on 1-meter) and a two-three-five (on the platform) with all six divers scoring. We had the most top eights of any team and they were awesome.”
As a team, NAU had 37 top eight finishes and an additional 16 finishes between ninth and 16th. In total, Lumberjack swimmers and divers took home 14 individual medals and four relay medals (two gold and two silver). A full release and a list of the WAC championship results can be found online.
NAU track and field sweeps Big Sky Indoor Championships for second straight year
For the second consecutive season and 10th time in school history, Northern Arizona University’s track and field team swept the Big Sky Indoor Conference Championships on Saturday afternoon at the J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome.
The team, made up of athletes who continually set personal bests and new school records with every meet they participated in, concluded its storybook season with the 20th title in program history on the men’s side and 12th conference crown for the women.
“Every team is different but this is truly a special group,” director of track and field Michael Smith said. “This collection of athletes will never be here in one place again, going for a title like this. That women’s team is a historic team and that men’s team, the way they did it is just remarkable. They really rose to the occasion and we’re just really proud to get a chance to coach a group of young people that respond in that type of way.”
The Lumberjack men finished with 137.5 points and the women concluded the meet with 150—the most points scored for a women’s unit since Sacramento State was named the conference champions in 2010. These victories marked the seventh consecutive conference indoor title won by the men and the second straight for the women.
Several NAU athletes’ performances earned them potential spots to compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Indoor National Championships, which will take place March 9 and 10 at Texas A&M.
For the women’s division, Jasmine Malone, who finished the Big Sky Championships with four gold medals—the most of any athlete competing, currently ranks No. 9 in the country in the 400-meter. Ashley Taylor was named the conference champion in the 800-meter race and could be postseason bound based on the results of conference meets still coming in around the nation. Paige Gilchrist is currently ranked No. 13 in the country for the 5000-meter.
The men’s division has Andy Trouard currently ranked second in the 3000-meter, No. 10 in the 5000-meter and No. 18 in the men’s mile. Matthew Baxter is currently slotted No. 16 in the 3000-meter.
No matter the outcome of NCAA qualifiers, this season will go down as one of the best in history for the NAU Track and Field Team.
“If anyone has trouble defining what team means, look up ‘NAU track and field,'” associate head coach Kenny McDaniel said. “This team displayed togetherness these past two days, I am so proud of this group. They made history. This performance will be talked about for years to come.”