NAU swim & dive on verge of 8th straight WAC title

Eight years of competing in the 200 butterfly finally paid off for Maddie Seidl last weekend when she wrapped up her collegiate swimming career at Northern Arizona University by winning the event at the WAC Championships.

The senior (above photo), a graduate of Basha High School in Mesa, was one of three gold-medal winners on the Lumberjacks team that helped propel NAU, the pre-championship favorite, to the top team score in the four-day event and position the ‘Jacks to win their eighth consecutive Western Athletic Conference women’s team title.

All that’s left to accomplish the goal is  a strong performance by the NAU dive team this weekend.

Seidl left Basha with school records in the 100 butterfly, 200 individual medley, 200 and 400 freestyle relays, and the 200 medley relay, and has been steadily improving her times while competing in multiple events throughout her career at NAU.

She has competed at the WAC championships each year throughout her NAU career and last season posted new best-time marks in both the 100 fly (54.97) and 200 fly (2:00.65) at the event.  She also swam the third leg on the winning 400 medley relay team.

The other two gold medals at this year’s WAC went to senior Hope Williams, who earned her second gold medal of the series with a time of 2:14.96 in the 200 breaststroke, and freshman Francesca Criscione who posted two individual wins in the 1650 free.

Williams also won a gold medal in the 200 breast as a sophomore and is the three-time reigning champion in the 100 breaststroke.  She broke the NAU school record in winning the event in 1:01.14 on Day 3 of the WAC Championships.

The diving portion of the WAC Championships begins tomorrow and NAU is considered a strong contender to finish among the top scorers at that event, which should secure the overall team title for the Lumberjack dynasty.

“Our job was to make the divers’ job easier, and I think we’ve done that,” said NAU head coach Andy Johns following the swim team’s’ top score of 572.5, which was 8.5 points ahead of second-place New Mexico State.

The dive team has a couple of returning participants in last year’s WAC Championships, Emily Luberto and Alyssa (Aly)Jones.  But it will be freshman phenom, Victoria Knapp, leading the way at this weekend’s three-day event.   During the season, Knapp was twice named WAC Diver of the Week.

During her prep career, she was homeschooled, but dove on the Skyline High School team in Mesa where she went undefeated through all four years of state competition.  In 2018 she was an AAU champion on the three-meter board.

The five-person dive team that will be representing NAU is almost 100 percent home-grown.  Luberto is from Mountain Ridge HS in Glendale and Jones graduated from Coconino HS in Flagstaff.  They’re joined by Reaney Preston from Scottsdale’s Chaparral HS and Maegen Jensen, the only import, who hails from San Diego, CA.

Three of the NAU divers have qualified for the NCAA Zone E championships, to be held next month.

But right now, the focus is on this weekend and that eighth consecutive team title.

(Photo: NAU Athletics)