Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Second time is a charm! -- Sophomore Swimmers and Divers

After a successful freshman campaign the sophomore class is back and ready to build on the accomplishments they achieved last season.

Cassie Anderson aka Miss Anderson – Cassie comes to NAU from Portland BORE-agon. She is a diving specialist that made a big “little” splash on the WAC last year. Cassie was one of the non-scorers at the WAC Championships, but her efforts would have pulled in 3 top 16 finishes. Returning for a second season and looking to make a bigger impact, Cassie will dominate the boards every chance she gets.

Chalene Dirks-Ryan aka CD-R – The teams only All-Canadian comes back to NAU with a fire burning inside of her. Placing 6th in the 200 back at last years WAC Championships, Chalene is looking forward to training with our outstanding backstroke group. With the ability to swim mid-distance freestyle as well as backstroke, this young lady is a multiple threat in a plethora of events.

Holly Frost aka Frosty – Frosty comes to Flagstaff from Mercer Island, WA. A diving wiz-kid, Holly, is coming back after two top-9 finishes from last year’s WAC Championships. With an outstanding diving group to train with, Holly will only improve on those two finishes, and possibly push for three top 8’s.

Kristin Jones aka KJ – Alaska born and breed this girl is the personification of the term work horse. Coming into her freshman campaign she had only swum the 1650 (aka the MILE!) a hand full of times. At the WAC Championships KJ pushed for a top 8 finish throughout the race falling just short into 10th at the end. Also, an All-WAC Swimmer in the 500 Free and 400 IM, KJ is coming back and looking to dominate every chance she gets.

Krista Maier aka The Flyin’ Hawaiian – The Flyin’ Hawaiian, Krista sat out most of last year with a couple injuries. Having the summer to heal up and get her groove back, Maier is ready for action this season.

By Dave Rollins, NAU Assistant Coach

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Swimming Hits the Water Friday

Enough suit talk, lets get down to business!

NAU Swimming and Diving has been at it for the past month getting back into shape for the long road that is the Swimming and Diving season. What starts in the end of August does not end until spring break, at least for the collegiate season. With a crop of savvy returners and five, soon to be six, new faces this promises to be a great season for the Lumberjacks!

Coming off of our second straight runner up finish in the Western Athletic Conference, we are hungrier then ever to bring back a conference championship to the Wall Aquatic Center and NAU. It has been eleven years since our last conference title, and that was when we were members of the Pacific Coach Swimming Conference (a conference made up for schools who’s conferences don’t support swimming). The loss of a great senior class is going to be where we start this year. Our new freshmen are chomping at the bit to get into action and show what they can do.

For the next couple of days I will introduce you to each class and what they bring to the pool!

Here is how they break down:

Fi Connell aka Aqua Diva– Fi is a backstroke specialist out of Port Marquis Australia. With her dynamic power off the walls and her drive to never give up, this girl has what it takes to not only win individual titles at the WAC meet, but also make a mark on the national scene.

Jacky Branning aka JB – JB is a local girl who comes to us from all the way down in the Valley. She is a breaststroke and individual medley fanatic and even dabbles in the butterfly. With best times that scare our current school records, JB has what it takes to make an immediate impact on the WAC from day one.

Danielle Palbykin aka Little Red – I just made that nickname up for her, so she will have to get used to it. Being Big Red myself, it was only a matter of time that we got another ginger on the team. Danielle comes to Flagstaff from down in the Valley also. Danielle is a teammate of JB’s and loves anything and everything about distance; at least that what we have told her. She has a passion for swimming miles and will add needed depth to our outstanding distance program.

Kelsey Loy aka Kelsey Loy – Kelsey comes to us from the beaches of San Diego where sun and surf are her specialties. Translating the fun in the sun to fast swimming in Flagstaff will be our goal this year. Specializing in sprint free and backstroke Kelsey will be a great addition to our sprinting program.

Kristy Ardavanis aka Krispy – A diving phenom also form the Valley, Krispy will be looking to make an immediate impact on the already stellar Diving program here at NAU. Specializing on being bouncy on the boards and entering the water with no splash, this diver will make heads turn when she posts her scores.

Last but not least,

Carissa Poeschel aka CP – From Portland, OR, Carissa will be joining the program in the spring semester of 2010. A butterfly guru with times that make me look slow, Carissa will be a valuable addition to an already outstanding butterfly group.

There are your 2009-10 freshman swimmers and divers. Look for four great years out of this group and I am sure they will impress.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Diego to Diego

Hey everyone, my name is Diego Estrada, and I am part of the NAU cross country team. This weekend we headed down to southern California for our “official” season opener, I was asked to write about my experience and I was excited to do so. So I’ll start with the bus drive to San Diego….

My alarm went off around 6 a.m., and for a second I thought about skipping the trip to sleep in, but my competitive self, and the thought of an unhappy Coach Heins, made me get out of bed and get on my way. Once I got to the bus I went straight to the back for a two hour nap. Then I woke up only to become utterly irritated with the DVD my teammate Nell Rojas decided to watch, Ellen DeGeneres stand up… really Nell? Ellen is NOT funny! The entire team, mostly the guys hated it. Luckily the angry crowd was persuasive enough to get her to change it. After that horrible setback the drive became a pleasant one. We made a quick stop in Yuma to eat, and then were on our way to Balboa Park to jog the course.

San Diego
was a bit warm and humid for my liking, but it didn’t compare to the humidity in Arkansas last June. It felt good to be back in California, and to be bonding with my teammates. The jog was a quick one. I spent most of it with Coach Heins talking about the race plan. He wanted to work on a different strategy team wise, and on my weakness. I have never been a fan of running in a pack, or even worse, having people pushing and shoving me. I was a little concerned, but I was aware that our team is so good that there was no need for me to do anything special; they could take care of the win on their own with out my assistance. That made it a lot easier to know that if it became a mental challenge for me, we would still come out on top. Basically we would go out there and purposely put our selves out of the picture for about a half of the race and then work our way to the front.

After we were done, we headed to our hotel. We headed to our rooms and prepared our selves for a magnificent feast courtesy of Coach Heins. I was a little concerned about rooming with Jordan Chipangama, with him being the new guy and all, but I quickly realized he was a chill guy. We all had a good time talking and relaxing at dinner. For a second I forgot that we were in town for business, I was having such a good time with everyone that it felt more like a vacation.

Game time! We made our way to Balboa Park bright and early. I could feel the excitement in the air. The Lumberjacks were ready to chop some “trees” haha…. And boy did they chop! I was finishing up my strides as I saw our women’s team perfectly execute the game plan and win their second meet in a row. Miss Veronica Pohl did what she does best, and won. She was closely fallowed be a flock of teammatesw. Eliza Gawryluk also ran really good placing third… I could hear some of the NAU fans excited on the side lines saying “that polish girl is good.” All of the girls did work, as Haley Lawrence stood out, the middle distance star simple ran amazing! I think she should definitely run a 5k this spring.

Shortly after they where finishing up, my classy team mate Darius Terry and I, rocking the half tights, made our way to the starting line. We all made our way there, and as the TEAM that we are, we clapped it in and supported each other. I wanted to feel as uncomfortable as I could so I made my way to the back center of our starting box. I couldn’t help but laugh a little as Andrew Belus joked “yeah box him up, don’t let him out.

The gun went off and for the first time of my life I did something I never do, I slammed on the breaks and worked my way to the back of the pack. I must have been our 14th guy or so at the mile marker, I slowly snaked my way to the middle front and began giving some support to MD (middle distance crew), I wanted to help out Darius as much as I could, after all I said I would. Finally, by the two mile marker, I made my presence felt at the front. I wasn’t intending on leading at all, till the “Rube” (Tim Freriks) took the lead. I knew he wanted to run fast, and was not about to allow him to do the work for the upperclassmen, so I took the lead and opened up a gap along with my teammates. When the damage was done, I simply sat back and enjoyed the show. Boy was it exciting to see the guys “jack it up!” Jason took over the pacing duties and from there on it was all him and Jordan. Jordan ran like a champ and in a humble manner stole the show. He was followed by, Ahmed, Jason and me. If it wasn’t for a brave USF runner we could have perfect scored the meet, but a 16 point win is not bad at all. Our superman/MD Darius Terry rounded out the top five with his impressive sixth place finish. It’s too bad it only takes five to score because we had plenty of ammo, as we placed everyone in the top 20. It was a good day! I was happy to see my parents, and little sister. I met my good friend Scott Blair’s parents; they were really nice, I’m sure they liked me.

Well that was that, shortly after we received our awards we headed to the beach for some down time, and then were back on the road to beautiful Flagstaff.

It was a wonderful experience to have been part of the trip with my teammates. Thanks to everybody for making it a fun and enjoyable trip. Good job and of course thanks for giving me the opportunity to write about my experience… hope everyone enjoyed reading about it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

NCAA President Brand Left His Mark

Collegiate Athletics lost a staunch advocate when NCAA President Myles Brand lost his battle with pancreatic cancer on Wednesday.

President Brand brought a unique perspective to the position as he became the first university president to serve in the roll of NCAA president. This after college athletic directors had served in that capacity in recent years.

I remember the first year Myles became president, not too long after the firing of Bobby Knight at Indiana; he summoned numerous college administrators to Dallas, Texas to work on the “Strategic Plan” that would guide the NCAA into the future.

I had the privilege of being asked to attend those meetings and you knew from day one that ACADEMICS were going to become his focus. Literally every time a suggestion or idea came forward he would ask, “How will these ideas help move forward academic performance?”

Myles always took the time to address your concerns and you may not have liked the answer but you always got one. He brought a different global perspective to the Association and it came at a time when we needed that difference.

A phrase we use to describe Northern Arizona University is “the difference that matters”. Myles Brand was “the difference that mattered” in the leadership of the NCAA and he was able to bring what matters the most to the forefront of the Association’s Agenda.

He said that the academic performance of our student-athletes will become the central focus of the Association and he did that.

Myles Brand may not have come to the Presidency of the Association in the traditional athletic way but make no mistake he became the classic athlete.

As he took on a formidable foe, cancer, he fought it tooth and nail just like you expect any true competitor to do.

He may have been over matched physically, by this demon, but he was class from beginning to end and he never gave up! He is gone in body but his spirit will live on.

Now the rest of us owe it to him and ourselves to keep that vision moving forward, that vision he so strongly believed in.

Thank you Myles, you and your leadership will be missed.

Jim Fallis, Northern Arizona University Athletics Director

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Kicker U Looking for New Leg

When Northern Arizona takes the field against Arizona on Saturday, the Lumberjacks will have a new kicker for the first time in a long time. Robbie Dehaze graduated last year with a list of accolades and records that could stand in the records books for some time.

Dehaze continued a tradition of kicking at Northern Arizona that includes former standouts Paul Ernster, Rhian Madrid and NAU Hall of Famer Mark Gould. And that is just the kickers from this decade. The Lumberjacks have ranked among the national leaders in punting every year, establishing NAU as Kicker U. The list of accomplishments ranks with that of the schools recognized as Quarterback U and Linebacker U across the country.

Head Coach Jerome Souers has not seen a player kick off for the Lumberjacks other than Dehaze since 2005. Remember J.P. Brandvig against Adams State in 2005? I didn’t. I had to look it up. After that game, Dehaze took over the kickoff duties, a job he completed 236 times over the last four years.

In fact, Dehaze has attempted the last 74 field goal attempts, 144 extra-point attempts and 104 punts. Outside of a pooch punt by a quarterback or a fake attempt, Dehaze took every kick over the last two seasons and all of the field goal and kickoffs over the last four years.

How good was Dehaze over the last two years? The Lumberjacks have four players trying to fill the void left this season. But they have a capable group including Washington State transfer Matt Myers, New Mexico transfer Drew Zamora and high school signee Andy Wilder. Wide receiver Ryan Rauschert, a former punter in high school, has moonlighted with the specialists and looked to have won the punting job entering the season opener.

At kickoff Saturday night Dehaze says he will be watching via his computer in Oregon. After signing with the Atlanta Falcons in the offseason, he is working out with hopes of finding a job in the CFL while testing feelers from NFL teams for future tryouts. With the next open job just an injury away, he is just waiting for an opportunity.

While Dehaze’s eligibility is up, it is too bad he cannot help his former teammates anymore. We will see someone else kickoff, punt, attempt a field goal and extra point for the Lumberjacks against Arizona. It will be different but we will likely see the next success story at Kicker U.
By Steven Shaff, NAU Media Relations

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Former Lumberjack Gerard Signed to Practice Squad by Ravens

BLOG UPDATE: K.J. Gerard was signed to the Baltimore Ravens practice squad on Sunday, securing a job in the NFL as the an undrafted free agent. He is the fourth NAU player since 2000 to earn a job in the NFL as an undrafted free agent.

ORIGINAL POST: Former Lumberjack K.J. Gerard cut off his dreadlocks Monday. Unfortunately it was not the only thing cut this week.

Gerard did not survive the final cuts by the Baltimore Ravens Saturday to make the 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent out of Northern Arizona. Gerard will look to land with another team or get a chance via the eight-man practice squad with the Ravens or another NFL team.

Based on the buzz Gerard created in Ravens camp, look for him to find a job playing professional football. Gerard is looking to become the fourth former NAU player to make team or practice after signing as a free agent.

Gerard was a two-time All-America selection. He earned All-America First-Team honors from the Associated Press, College Sporting News, The Sports Network and the Walter Camp Foundation in 2008, while finishing as a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award given to the best defensive player at the FCS level.

Former Lumberjack Keith O’Neil is one of the recent success stories for the Lumberjacks in the NFL. He made the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent and played in the Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts.

Gerard holds the NAU school record for interceptions with 19, tied for the fifth-best total in Big Sky history. He finished his career ranked tied for first in interceptions among active career leaders in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and Division I overall with 19. In 2008, he was fifth on the team in tackles with 47 with a team-best 38 solos. The Fountain Valley, Calif., native recorded five interceptions to rank second in the Big Sky Conference and tied for 17th nationally (0.45 per game). He also had a team-best nine pass deflections, eight tackles for loss and a forced fumble and blocked kick.

Baltimore seemed like the best place for me,” said Gerard on the day he signed. “They have a really good defense. It feels good but at the same time I just have my foot in the door. I still have to go out there and make a name for myself.”

And he has made a name for himself during training camp. Now he just has to find a job.

NAU Free Agent Signees Since 2000

Preston Parsons, Arizona Cardinals, 2002

Robert Haws, Arizona Cardinals, 2002

Keith O’Neil, Dallas Cowboys, 2003

Mark Gould, New York Giants, 2004

Jeremy Thornburg, Philadelphia Eagles, 2005

Roger Robinson, Arizona Cardinal, 2005

K.J. Gerard, Baltimore Ravens, 2008

By Steven Shaff, NAU Media Relations

Friday, September 4, 2009

FINA Second guesses themselves…again

Dear General Public,

I am sorry.

In my last blog I told you all about the speed suits and how the effected the sport on all levels. This time around, FINA (swimming’s world governing body) is up to no good again.

It was a mere 4 months ago that FINA came out with a list of suits that would be allowed from then until January 1, 2010. A few days, and many angry suit companies, later FINA decided that they would not ban ANY suits and allow all suits to be worn in competition. This sent a shockwave through the swimming community. There was officially no limit on what someone could wear.

Then comes July 2009, FINA says that on January 1, 2010 we will only see textile, fully permeable swim suits. For women, suits covering their torso and their upper leg (above the knee) will be permitted. No zippers, only elastic straps. That’s fine, great. For men, only suits (same material as female suits) can be worn from below the navel to above the knee. Nothing bigger, also great.

Now just a couple days ago, FINA has started to entertain the idea (from a few member nations) that the male suit should equal the female suit. This means that men could wear material above their navel and over the shoulder. Think a pair of long johns; you know the kind that people used to wear before they had heat, only these cannot go past the knee.

There have not been any sureties about this coming up pass, but it was only a couple weeks ago that FINA decided that they would hold fast and stand their ground about their new rule changes. Sure enough the brilliant minds, and I use that term as loosely as possible, at FINA have started to second guess themselves…AGAIN!

Swimming has enough trouble keeping fans between Olympics. Thanks to the idiotic actions of Mr. Phelps (and his infamous bong), and now FINA and their flip-flopping, a la Al Gore in the 2000 elections, swimming is getting a reputation of some what of a joke. What our sport needs is someone with the gall to just stand up and say “Here are the rules; I do not care if you like, we are not going to change them.”

Wow, imagine that, someone and/or some organization actually holding true to what they have said in the past? What a concept.

It is now that I would formally like to say that on behalf of the entire swimming community, we are sorry that FINA is making us look like a bunch of fools.

Please forgive us, and check us out more then once every four years.

Thank you,

Dave Rollins
Assistant Swimming Coach Northern Arizona University
Head Coach Flagstaff Peaks Aquatic Club

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Soccer Team Thanks Community

Dear Flagstaff Community and NAU Students,

We are writing this letter in great thanks to the support that was shown at our home opener Friday night against the University of Arizona. The cheers, chants and clapping are what our team thrived on during the game. When our heads went down, it was the fans in the stands that reminded us that there are other people out there who believe in our success and ability. What an anticipated game for everyone. Walking away with a win would have been ideal, for everyone. However, a tie will have to do! It is important that your support continues throughout the season, not only do we play for each other on the field; we play especially for our fans: NAU students, the Flagstaff community and our families. The tailgate was incredible and was a great way to get everyone involved. With much thanks again, we hope to see you all out there this coming Friday. We hope to continue the large amount of fans, and with your continued support we hope this to be possible. Thanks again for cheering us on to another Big Sky Conference Championship.


Rebekah Schmidt and the NAU Women’s Soccer Team

Photo by Matt Beaty/NAU Media Relations