Friday, February 24, 2012

WAC Swimming & Diving Championship Blog Entry 2

NAU senior swimmer Kristin Jones and senior diver Holly Frost will be chronicling their final conference meet from the WAC Swimming & Diving Championships from San Antonio. The second entry comes from Frost:

Palo Alto Natatorium is a very distinctive place where magical moments happen.  Something about the water in that pool and the atmosphere, which surrounds all of us, that generates monumental racing and on point diving.  Yesterday, February 23 was the second day of the WAC Championships and boy was there some stellar racing and beautiful diving.  Beginning the day in our usual fashion we entered the pool for wake up swimming and a little diving to get our bodies moving and prepare for the day ahead.  Boy, was it a day.  Bang, NAU began prelims rest began to fall into place on the swimming and soon diving side.

Diving began with eight Lumberjacks ready to make a statement and let the rest of the building know we were here and ready to work.  With two seniors, myself included, this was the beginning of a culminating experience that we have been preparing and battling for this past 4 years. Diving competitions are kind of like a mystery game, you watch people compete, hear scores and then try and guess where people will place and who will earn the coveted top 8 places.  Sometimes it is a given who will be in the top but often it is a battle.  No matter what happens you keep fighting for everything you can and earn every possible point with pretty toes and clean lines. 

We were able to come together as a team and build one another up with positive energy, words, and constant dance party.  We all compete differently and need different things to make competition easier and to be successful.  Something that I have learned the past 4 years is having the ability to feed off teammates and learn from what they do makes you a better person and athlete.  We have been successful individually and as a team and a lot of that is because we support one another and want each other to do well.  Personally, it is more important for the team as a whole to do well than myself as an individual; we fight together and that is what makes us the team to beat and the team people want to be.  I am proud to be a Lumberjack and I am proud to be a diver part of this program.  So far, we have had multiple girls make both the consolations and finals on both 1M and 3M springboard.  Tomorrow is platform and another opportunity to come together as a team and compete to the best of our abilities. 

“I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual is the ultimate champion.”
-Mia Hamm 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

WAC Swimming & Diving Championships Blog

NAU senior swimmer Kristin Jones and senior diver Holly Frost will be chronicling their final conference meet from the WAC Swimming & Diving Championships from San Antonio. The first entry comes from Jones:

The atmosphere in the Palo Alto swimming pool was electrifying last night – from the moment the Lumberjacks walked inside we could feel the energy flowing through us. After warming up in the competition pool, the team could feel the excitement of the meet growing, and it was gaining momentum. While all the swimmers were going through the tediously long task of inching their tiny racing suits up and over their shoulders, we were all reflecting on what Coach Johns had told each of us earlier in the day, “light the spark”. Well folks, after the 200 Medley Relay, I'd say the Spark was Lit. The first race was all that we needed it to be – intense, inspiring, and above all fast. Fiona led the girls with an incredible 50 backstroke, followed by Jordan's fastest 50 breaststroke in the history of the program then came Rachel Palmers thunderous 50 fly, and finally the anchoring all-star – Kelsey Loy. The relay finished in 3rd place overall, far exceeding the teams expectations.

After the relay I could feel the emotion and excitement growing in each member of the team, every comment that was made was positive and full of energy and enthusiasm. In between the two relays, a number of ladies competed in time trials. Most of the girls' jaws dropped when they looked at the timing board – we had freshman Meagan Morrison drop two seconds from her lifetime best in the 200 I.M., Caitlin Wright dropped about the same in the 200 Free, Emily Lewandowski dropped in her 100 fly, as did Alexis Juergens; overall the freshmen class kicked some (you know what!). The other time trialers (myself included!) all had great swims and I am looking forward to watching what they will be able to do later in the week!

After the excitement of the time trials died down for a quick moment, the 800 Free Relay was pumped and ready to race. The lead-off for the relay was a little shocking for all the teams next to them in the pool – needless to say, Emma Lowther gave us what we needed – an early lead. The next two members of the relay, Rachel Palmer and Chalene Dirks-Ryan, held on to that lead and started to inch further ahead of the other racers. When Krista Maier dove in slightly ahead of the San Jose State University's anchoring swimmer, our hearts jumped into our throats. I literally felt light headed when I stood up to cheer, I had to grab onto something to stabilize myself. The next 1:49 seconds went by in a blur, actually – a blur. Krista looked great throughout the race, the only problem was that SJSU was only a few hundredths behind her … and there was only 50 yards left in the race. The finish was very close – with NAU taking first place in a 7:18.76 and SJSU touching in 2nd place with a 7:18.99. Overall, the team mentality was right where it needed to be tonight, and the “spark” that Coach Johns was hoping for – well it's about to turn into a raging bonfire. It's going to be one of those meets that you never forget, whatever happens throughout the rest of the Championship, we will know that we all gave it our whole hearts, and we left nothing in the pool. I am so proud to be a part of this team, at this time, and know that these memories will stay with me throughout my life.  

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lumberjack Basketball Player Marcus Lever Recounts Dad's Jersey Retirement

Lafayette “Fat” Lever

By Marcus Lever, Northern Arizona Basketball
During his sophomore and junior seasons, he helped his Sun Devil teams post records of 22-7 and 24-4, earning him All-American second-team and All Pac-10 honors. He later led the Devils to one of the biggest upsets in Division I history with a 20-point victory over undefeated and No. 1-ranked ranked Oregon State. These immaculate collegiate achievements’ led to Lafayette “Fat” Lever being drafted 11th overall in the 1982 NBA Draft. As a fan, admirer, and most importantly his son, it was truly humbling to see my dad’s number 12 jersey being retired by Arizona State University, and proudly descending from the Wells Fargo Area rafters.

Walking into the pre-game retirement ceremony, and seeing so many familiar faces such as Bob Lanier (NBA All-Star), Roland Lavetter (High School Coach), Bike Medder (College Roommate) and many others, let me know how special this night was. With so many people in attendance, from various walks of life all across the country, it made me realize how many lives my dad touched in a positive way. With my mom and all my siblings in attendance, we were there to celebrate him and his accomplishments.

Photo is by Robert Kline.
As my siblings and I sat courtside and watched the clock tick down until halftime, I looked over at my dad and he didn’t seem nervous, anxious or worried. He was proud. There were no other words to describe his mood or emotion. He was simply proud. As my siblings and I walked and stood at center court with my dad, we watched his jersey drop and graciously hang over Ned Wulk Court as hundreds of ASU fan’s chanted “Lever, Lever, Lever”. Thirty years after wearing an ASU uniform, friends, family, teammates, and fans were all in attendance to celebrate him and his accolades.

The older I get and the more I play the game of basketball, the more I appreciate and idolize what my dad has accomplished on and off the court. While growing up, not once, NOT ONCE, did I ever hear or see my dad boast or brag about what he had accomplished. After setting and breaking so many records, in countless different categories’ at the collegiate and NBA level, he continued to stay humble.  That right there, is a true testament of a hero. A legend. And a great father.

Marcus Lever is a junior who played his first two seasons at Cal State Stanislaus. He helped his team to its first ever CCAA playoff appearance as a sophomore, averaging 5.1 points and 2.5 rebounds. He was a a 2009 graduate of Desert Vista High School. He is sitting out this season.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Rare Opportunity to See Future NBA Player This Week

In 1982 I saw a young player in the Baltimore Orioles organization play a minor league game against the Tidewater Tides. The next year a Double A star for the Mets came up and hit three home runs in the playoffs for the Tides. Thirty years later, I have fond memories of my early witness to the careers of Hall of Famer Cal Ripkin and MLB All-Star Daryl Strawberry. You can have the same experience Thursday night when the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks play host to Big Sky leading Weber State and their standout junior guard Damian Lillard. It will be a show. 

Lillard has been named one of 11 finalists for the 2012 Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award. Earlier this season Lillard was named to the final list of 20 players for the award.  Entering this week’s games, he continues to lead the nation in scoring, averaging 25.5 points per game.  He is also seventh in the nation in three-point field goals made per game and ninth in the country in free throw percentage.  Lillard is fourth in the Big Sky in assists and seventh in steals.  He has scored in double figures in all 20 games for the Wildcats this season and has scored 20 or more 15 times, including a career-high 41 points in a win over San Jose State in December.  Lillard is a finalist for the John Wooden Award.    

He is a future pro that the Big Sky Conference has not seen the likes of since Eastern Washington’s Rodney Stuckey (right) played in the league for two seasons. Stuckey scored 45 points in the Walkup Skydome against the Lumberjacks in 2006 and was named the conference player of the year that season as a freshman. He was selected after his sophomore year by Detroit Pistons in the first round (#15 overall) of 2007 NBA Draft.

Former Lumberjack Cameron Jones had NBA scouts come see him play last season but he did not draw the same attention Lillard has this season. At the NAU game in Ogden last month, San Antonio Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford was in attendance among a host of scouts.

On Thursday the New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets and Atlanta Hawks will each have reps at the game at the Rolle Activity Center.

While I will always cheer and support the Lumberjacks as the Sports Information Director at NAU (and I hope you do too), I am looking forward to seeing Lillard play again in person this week and follow his career in the NBA.

The Lumberjacks held Lillard to just 18 points in the first matchup in Ogden and he got to the free throw line a season-low two times. But he has the ability to post big numbers in any game. He scored 40 against Portland State last week. 

What will he do this time? Either way, it will be memorable and you should come out to the game.

By Steve Shaff, NAU Media Relations Director