2017 WAC Championships Houston, Texas // Feb. 22-25

The Northern Arizona swimming & diving team takes aim at their fourth consecutive WAC Championship this week.

Last season, the Lumberjacks crushed the field in near historic fashion to complete the three-peat. NAU totaled 807.5 points and posted the fifth-largest margin of victory in WAC history by outpacing runner-up New Mexico State by 319.5 points.

This season though, NAU will rely on a new cast of talent after losing nearly 43% of its points from those not on this year's roster.

"It's tough to look at who we lost, but that's not our focus. We're looking at who we have and we're going to be really good in a lot of spots. We're going to need contributions from everyone and it's going to be a dog fight between three or four teams." - Head Coach Andy Johns

On the swimming side, NAU will rely on six upperclassmen who combined to score 332.5 points last year.

Urte Kazakeviciute

The senior from Kaunas, Lithuania eyes her first ever individual WAC medal to cap a spectacular senior season.

  • Kazakeviciute claimed a pair of WAC Swimmer of the Week awards (Jan. 9, Jan. 23) this season. Her final dual meet season included event wins over Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon State, Boise State and Nevada among others.
  • She enters this week's championships with the sixth-best 100 breaststroke (1:03.40) and fourth-best 200 breaststroke (2:14.34) times in the conference.
  • She has two career runner-up finishes in the 200 and has a best finish of fourth (twice) in the 100. Last season, she picked up her first career NCAA 'B' Standard time in the 100, while she has clocked 'B' cuts in the 200 in each of her three previous conference meets.
Last Season's Individual Results

200 breast - 2:13.73 (career-best) - Third

100 breast - 1:02.47 (career-best) - Fourth

Alina Staffeldt

Through her first two conference championships, Staffeldt already has a pair of individual golds to her name.

  • The Hannover, Germany native will enter this year's meet as the defending WAC champion in the 200 butterfly after setting a new school record en route to the title last February.
  • Staffeldt also won the 100 butterfly as a freshman before finishing as the runner-up last year despite lowering her own school record.
  • Like Kazakeviciute, Staffeldt also picked up a pair of WAC Swimmer of the Week awards (Oct. 10, Oct. 31) this season. She currently owns the conference's fastest times in the 100 fly (54.48) and 200 fly (2:00.18) as well as the sixth-fastest 50 freestyle time (23.62).
Last Season's Individual Results

200 fly - 1:57.66 (school record) - First

100 fly - 53.83 (school record) - Second

50 free - 23.15 (career-best) - Fourth

Kimmy Richter

In her third WAC Championships, the Big Bay, Auckland native is expected to carry NAU's distance squad and could be poised for her best meet yet.

  • Richter takes the baton as the Lumberjacks' top distance freestyler and enters as the favorite in the mile with the conference's best season time of 17:01.32. She placed second in the event last season.
  • In addition to her top mile time, the junior ranks second in the WAC going into the week in the 500 freestyle (4:55.08) and fourth in the 200 freestyle (1:51.08).
  • As a freshman, Richter swam the 100 and 200 butterfly at the conference meet and should NAU choose to go one of those routes this week, the versatile swimmer could make noise there as well. She ranks fourth and eighth respectively in the WAC in the 100 and 200 this season.
Last Season's Individual Results

1,650 free - 16:48.35 (career-best) - Second

500 free - 4:53.46 (career-best) - Fourth

200 free - 1:50.05 (career-best) - Fifth

Sara Lenhoff

Lenhoff, one of two senior Lumberjack swimmers, will once again be a threat in the backstroke events in her final conference championships.

  • Individual gold has eluded Lenhoff in the past, but she has had no issues with picking up a host of other medals. Her best individual finish was as a silver medalist in the 200 back as a sophomore.
  • The Santee, Calif. product also placed third in the 100 back that same season, which marked her second straight bronze medal in the event.
  • She will be NAU's medley relay backstroker for the fourth WAC meet in as many years. This season, she owns best times of 56.77 in the 100, which ranks eighth in the conference, and 2:05.40 in the 200.
Last Season's Individual Results

200 back - 2:00.88 - Fourth

100 back - 56.39 - Seventh

Claire Hammond

Hammond enjoyed a breakout performance at last year's conference meet and looks to build on that this week.

  • The junior from Roseville, Calif. burst onto the scene last year with two individual medals. She won the silver in the 500 freestyle and the bronze in the 200 freestyle.
  • Her final finishes were massive leaps forward from the year prior in which she placed 11th in the 500 and sixth in the 200.
  • Hammond will once again be in the hunt for gold this week as she currently ranks sixth in the 200 free (1:51.56) and ninth in the 500 free (5:01.02) through the regular season.
Last Season's Individual Results

500 free - 4:51.33 (career-best) - Second

200 free - 1:49.39 (career-best) - Third

100 free - 50.94 (career-best) - Eighth

Roni Houck

Houck will anchor a sprints unit that will be without a few key departures from last season's dominant squad.

  • Houck is the top returning sprint freestyler coming off a third-place finish in the 50 free at last year's championships. She owns the team's fastest 50 time (23.61) this season, good for fifth in the WAC heading into the meet.
  • She was also the anchor leg of NAU's 200 medley relay winning team. The Peoria, Ariz. junior will retain that spot this week.
  • Houck joins Staffeldt as the only two swimmers who were part of both of the Lumberjacks' winning relay teams last year (200 medley, 200 freestyle).
Last Season's Individual Results

50 free - 23.20 (career-best) - Third

100 free - 51.07 (career-best) - Ninth

200 free - 1:52.88 (career-best) - 11th

NAU's depth has been crucial to its championship success over the last three years, and this year will be no different. Fortunately, the 'Jacks have a number of other names who could make a big impact.

Andrea Schmidt (left): Schmidt placed eighth in the 200 butterfly last season and her season-best time of 2:03.25 is fourth in the WAC this season. Audrey Mann (middle): Mann is expected to be NAU's top individual medley swimmer, as well as a key contributor in the breaststroke. Fernanda Montiel (right): Montiel's 200 backstroke time of 2:03.45 is the fastest on the team this season and eighth-fastest in the conference.

Meanwhile, the Lumberjacks will have the luxury of arguably the most talented group of divers in Houston this week led by reigning WAC Diver of the Year, Alexa Geiger.

"I think we've performed very well throughout the year and it's been great to see all of our divers have their moments. There are other teams out there who are also really good and have improved, but I do believe we are still the team to beat." - Diving Coach Nikki Huffman

NAU's divers scored 175 points at last year's championships, accounting for 22% of the entire team's total. Geiger scored 46 points herself - the most of NAU's six divers - and is one-half of the Lumberjacks' dynamic duo this season.

Alexa Geiger

The reigning WAC Diver of the Year guides NAU's divers as she enters her final conference championships.

  • Geiger, the team's only senior among a group that includes four sophomores, won both springboards at last year's championships. She became the first Lumberjack diver to win multiple events since 2004.
  • Geiger totaled two WAC Diver of the Week awards this season (Nov. 7, Dec. 5) which brought her career total up to five.
  • The Fullerton, Calif. native ranks second in the WAC this season on 1-meter (310.65) and third on 3-meter (319.72).
Last Season's Individual Results

1-meter - 302.30 (career-best) - First

3-meter - 322.05 (career-best) - First

Platform - 197.35 (career-best) - 11th

Tanya Kurach

The sophomore transfer from Saint Petersburg, Russia has the accolades - and abilities - to take the WAC by storm.

  • She has had no issues at the Division I level during her initial season at NAU. Last season, she was NCAA Division II All-American at Henderson State.
  • Kurach notched wins in both dual meets versus nationally-ranked Arizona this season and also earned her first career WAC Diver of the Week award on Jan. 30 following a standout weekend at the Air Force Diving Invitational.
  • Kurach is the only diver in the WAC to begin this week with top five scores in all three events. She ranks second on 3-meter (322.80), third on 1-meter (307.35) and fourth on platform (207.30).

Geiger and Kurach are not the only Lumberjacks highly regarded, and highly ranked, heading into Houston.

Raquel Gonzales (left): Gonzales is the owner of the WAC's top platform score this season (224.15) and aside from placing fourth on the tower as a freshman, she was the only NAU diver to place in the top eight in all three events last year. Christina Torrente (right): Torrente recorded a best finish of ninth on 1-meter last season and enters this year's championships with top six scores in all three diving events.

In all, NAU returns as the defending champions in seven events (200 medley relay, 200 freestyle relay, 200 butterfly, 500 freestyle, 1,650 freestyle, 1-meter diving, 3-meter diving). The seven event gold medals were NAU's most in a single meet since joining the WAC in 2004-05.

The 'Jacks return their entire 200 medley relay team (Lenhoff, Kazakeviciute, Staffeldt, Houck). Last season marked the first time since 1988 in which NAU claimed a conference championship in the event.
NAU set a new school record last season in winning the 200 freestyle relay (1:31.58). Staffeldt and Houck swam the first two legs of the relay.
Be sure to click on the links below to follow the Lumberjacks' quest for their fourth straight WAC title.

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