NAU wins relay gold at WAC championships

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Northern Arizona’s 400 medley relay team won gold in program-record time and the women’s swimmers earned three individual medals and two school records on the third day of the WAC Swimming and Diving Championships.
Defending WAC champion San Jose State made a big push in the team standings on Friday to move into first place with 503 points, followed by NAU in second with 444 points and Denver in third with a 415.5 total.
“Our relay team just swam lights out for our first-ever medley relay WAC championship, and their splits were amazing,” NAU head coach Andy Johns said. “We’re swimming lights out and lifetime bests. There are just teams that have a few more people scoring a few more points, but we’re really proud of our girls and are very excited about the results we’re having.”
The NAU quartet of senior Fi Connell, junior Jordan Burnes, junior Rachel Palmer and freshman Ellie Morrissey won the 400 medley relay by nearly two seconds with a winning time of 3 minutes, 38.69 seconds. That time shattered the previous school record of 3:41.74, which was set at the conference meet last season.
Records also fell in the first event of the night, as Palmer and freshman Kendall Brown both broke the previous program record in the 400 individual medley. Brown touched in 4:17.46 to place third while Palmer was fourth in 4:18.36, with both recording NCAA “B” qualifying times and both breaking Palmer’s previous school record of 4:18.46, which was set last season. Freshman Eva Pold also scored in the event, placing seventh in the consolation final.
Burnes broke her own school record in the 100 breaststroke twice on Friday, touching at 1:02.58 in the prelims before topping herself in 1:02.04 in the final to place third with an NCAA “B” time. Her times broke her previous school record of 1:02.77 set last season while junior Stirling Smith made the consolation final in the event and finished second and 10th overall in 1:03.26, the second fastest time in program history.
A three-time WAC medalist in the 100 backstroke, Connell earned her third silver in the event during her illustrious career, touching at 54.24 to place second with an NCAA ‘B’ time while the team also had three swimmers qualify for the C final in the event.
In the 200 freestyle junior Emma Lowther took the bronze, finishing third in 1:49.17 for her second medal of the meet. Sophomore Caitlin Wright also made the final and finished seventh overall in 1:51.40.
In the day’s other event, the 100 butterfly, sophomore Alexis Juergens paced NAU with a third place finish in the consolation final in 55.84, the fifth-fastest time in program history, while junior Andrea Derflinger was seventh in the consolation final.
The Lumberjacks are within striking distance of the Spartans going into the final day of competition but will need a big Saturday to claim the WAC crown.
“San Jose State gained 65 points on us today and Denver is less than 30 points behind as they put a serious move on us as well,” Johns said. “Tomorrow is a good day for us but we have to be better than we were today in order to hold off Denver, let alone catch San Jose. Winning the relay definitely gives us momentum to go into tomorrow, and we need it.”
The final day of the WAC Championships includes platform diving as well as several swimming events, including the 200 backstroke, 100 freestyle, 200 breaststroke, 200 butterfly, 1,650 freestyle, and 400 free relay.