Chelsea Jackson Leads NAU in Blue-Gold Intrasquad

Photo Courtesy: NAU Athletics

Behind strong performances from senior Kendall Brown and senior Chelsea Jackson, the Blue Team ran away with a victory in Northern Arizona swimming & diving’s Blue vs. Gold meet. The Blue team dominated with eight event wins in winning the meet, 60-44, in the Lumberjacks’ final preparation for their regular season opener in three weeks.

“The team was more aggressive in the way they approached their racing today,” said head coach Andy Johns. “The combination of that and the ability to finish races strong was a big difference (than the Pentathlon). Overall, we’re in a good spot and moving forward we have some big challenges ahead.”

The Blue team used a win in the day’s first event in the 200 medley relay to spur a wire-to-wire victory. The team of senior Brooke Brittain, junior Urte Kazakeviciute, sophomore Alina Staffeldt and junior Jori Lindquist raced to a win with a time of 2:01.03, spotting the Blue squad a 7-0 lead in the meet. Sophomore Kimmy Richter then followed with a photo-finish worthy win in the 200 freestyle, edging out sophomore Claire Hammond of the Gold team by .14 seconds with a time of 2:08.60.

Sophomore Roni Houck got the Gold team’s first win in the 50 free with yet another narrow victory over Staffeldt, winning with a time of 27.32 – just .12 seconds faster than Staffeldt. However, Brown picked up her first of two wins in the 200 individual medley with a dominating time of 2:25.29, more than two seconds faster than the Gold’s senior Monica Pruett. The win allowed the Blue team to take a 21-13 lead into the first swimming break.

Jackson, who swept both diving events on Friday, made a strong first impression on her final season earning first place with a score of 307.05. The Blue team not only notched another win on their belt in the 150 fly, but went one-two in the event with Staffeldt and Brown going 1:42.51 and 1:44.68 respectively. The top two spot sweep put the Blue team in front by a 35-15 margin before freshman Logan Neal posted a winning time of 1:00.21 in the 100 free for the Gold team.

Neal’s win was the first of two consecutive for the Gold team as junior Hayley Edmond, the winner of NAU’s Pentathlon two weeks ago, won the 150 backstroke by nearly three seconds with a time of 1:43.76. While the Gold team had the momentum temporarily, Brown placed first in the 400 free with a time of 4:33.89. The time was nearly five seconds faster than the runner-up, but for the Blue team it was Richter coming in second allowing them to hold a commanding lead with three events remaining.

Jackson finished her perfect day with a score of 292.27 to win the 1-meter diving event before Kazakeviciute won the 150 breaststroke for the Blue’s final win with a time of 1:56.54. The Gold relay quartet of Edmond, freshman Ila Hughes, Neal and Houck concluded the day with a winning time of 1:50.51 in the 200 free relay.

For the NAU divers, Thursday was their season debut after not competing in the season-opening Pentathlon. Aside from Jackson’s two wins, several other Lumberjacks performed well on the boards including junior Alexa Geiger placing second in both events and the team’s two freshmen placing third in one event each. For the Blue team, Christina Torrente nabbed the final scoring spot on 3-meter, while Raquel Gonzales scored for the Gold team on 1-meter in their first collegiate meet.

“For the training we’ve been doing and what we’ve been preparing for, our divers did great,” said diving coach Nikki Huffman. “We’re a little rough around the edges right now for competition, but that will come in the next three weeks. Our freshmen aren’t satisfied and that’s even better, because they want more. The fact that they were right up and competing with our other divers is a testament to our recruiting and their work ethic.”

“Everyone looked great,” Jackson added. “We’ve just started our training and everyone dove pretty well. It was my first time seeing the freshmen dive and they were great, so that was awesome.”

Although the team’s were divided into separated squads for the intrasquad meet, the energy was palpable in the Wall Aquatic Center as the Lumberjacks used the day to gear up for the season ahead.

“We became closer today as a team,” Brown said. “We were either Blue or Gold, but each and every one of us was cheering for each other. We came together and wanted the best for everyone.”

NAU Athletics contributed this report.

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