Water wonders: NAU swimming and diving wins seventh straight WAC conference championship

Since 2014, Northern Arizona University’s women’s swimming and diving team has been at the top of Western Athletic Conference. This year was no different as the women earned their seventh straight conference championship, taking the trophy home with 677.5 points, almost 100 more than California Baptist, who finished in second with 579 points.

“I am so proud of the efforts of our entire team,” coach Andy Johns said. “Dealing with the adversity of schedule changes and only timed finals, they were the best team the last two days, with the most energy and the best attitude on deck. We had a challenging year with lots of struggles, but this team showed the heart of a champion the last two days and won a well-deserved title.”

The Lumberjacks earned six individual gold medals, with swimmers Elisa Rodriguez and Lainie Bell each with two first-place finishes. 

“Starting with the mile, we swam pretty well, but California Baptist outscored us to make it a close meet,” Johns said. “But our backstrokers, starting with Sarah O’Connor in an early heat, just took over the event. That energy flowed into our 100 freestylers and earned another win from Elisa Rodriguez.”

In the 1650 free, the Lumberjacks took three top-16 finishes, with Astrid Villeda leading the way in fifth with a time of 17:07.61. Sam Milewski took 11th, improving her previous time of 17:34.14 to 17:27.88. Alice Hick finished 16th, timing in at 17:36.36, besting her record of 17:56.58 by 20 seconds.

Bell won the 200-meter backstroke with a time of1:56.94, a personal best and the first Lumberjack to win that race since 2012.

Rodriguez’s second win came from the 100-meter freestyle, finishing at 49.24. She is now a back-to-back winner in the event.

Miranda Nichols helped her team earn points in the 100-meter free after rounding out to 13th, hitting the wall at 51.47, a new personal best.

Hope Williams and Haley Mayhew had top five finishes in the 200-meter breaststroke. 

“Hope and Haley swam well,” Johns said. “Our flyers all swam great and combined with the divers, we had control of the meet.”

For the divers, Jenny Cheetham was the first gold winner of the WAC Championships. She took her win on day one on the 1-meter board, scoring 297.71 points. The next day, Cheetham totaled out to 208.30 points to place second in the platform competition. Her teammate, Emily Sharrer, took third with 199.15 and Emily Luberto was close behind in sixth with a tally of 192.35, having a four-point difference to fourth.

The three divers will head to the NCAA Zone Diving Championships running from March 9-11. Shortly after, selected swimmers will compete at the National Invitational Championship on March 12-14.

1650 Free: 

5. Astrid Villeda 17:07.61

11. Sam Milewski 17:27.88

16. Alice Hick 17:36.36

100-meter Breaststroke:

1. Hope Williams 1:01.75

200-meter Breaststroke: 

2. Hope Williams 2:16.29

5. Haley Mayhew 2:17.35

200-meter Backstroke: 

5. Sarah O’Connor 2:01.12

6. Fernanda Montiel 2:01.17 

200-meter Butterfly:

2. Maddie Seidl 2:00.65

4. Niamh McDonagh 2:01.79

7. Kate Bier 2:03.56

400-meter Freestyle Relay: 

2. Katy Smith, Erin Spielman, Miranda Nichols 3:22.81