Despite last weekend’s cold and windy weather, LSU’s Natatorium was packed with eager spectators as the Tigers hosted Texas A&M for their Senior Tribute meeting. The fierce competition between the Tigers and the Aggies provided a huge push for fans and families to cheer on their favorite athletes.
Despite both the women’s and men’s swim teams coming just short of a win, the final home game of the season was exactly how graduating seniors had envisioned.
For senior diver Anne Vilde, this meeting meant so much more than just her last time officially participating in the Natatorium. It marked the end of countless achievements and opportunities that she has amassed over the years. This meeting also marked the end of many years she spent practicing and competing on the boards with her little sister, Helle Tuxen, a sophomore diver on LSU’s roster.
Championship season awaits pic.twitter.com/zvlgqja5M3
— LSU Swimming & Diving (@LSUSwimDive) January 24, 2022
“Honestly, in the beginning I went into this meeting thinking it was just like any other meeting,” explains Vilde. “I was excited, but I’m just getting tired. But every time we did the Senior Tribute, I would look at my little sister and she would burst into tears. Whenever she started to cry, I started to cry. It was definitely emotional.”
It was during this meeting that Vilde realized how much her small team had grown. Changes in swim staff coaching, a seemingly never-ending pandemic, and multiple injuries have left LSU’s dive team nearly untouchable.
“We’ve definitely matured and we have such good dynamics,” Vilde said of her team. “Coach Doug has always managed to live up to his expectations, which is why we are one of the best diving teams in the country. We want to be good as a team and that has become our main focus.”
After graduating, Vilde plans to pursue optical practical training to work in the United States as an international student. She planned to participate in the FINA World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, but the event was postponed for a whole year due to COVID-19. That’s why Vilde says she’s allowed to take this time after the end of the season to get some much-needed rest.
“Maybe I’ll have a summer vacation,” she laughed. “I’ve never had one, so that’ll be fun.”
Across the Natatorium were six swimmers who were also honored last weekend from the diving boards. Among them was senior Jack Jannasch, who had a very different perspective on the game after announcing to his teammates that he would be joining LSU for a fifth year. Because of the effects of COVID-19 on college athletes across the country, many were given the chance to qualify for an extra year — an opportunity Jannasch refused to pass up.
“I’m so excited for next year,” Jannasch said. “The direction this program is taking makes me so excited, to a point where I didn’t want to miss it.”
While Jannasch stays, he still finds it disturbing to realize that his teammates and classmates will be leaving.
“I love my class and I love the people in my class,” he explained. “We’ve been through a lot, you know, and we’ve had that big change in coaching lately. We kind of stayed together because of it all and it’s really sad to see them leave.”
Before the graduating seniors moved on, they could experience an atmosphere like no other in the Nat. Due to COVID-19 regulations and conflicting athletic events on campus, the Tigers’ few home gatherings are not always accompanied by a large crowd. This encounter, however, was different.
“It was just hard being affected by COVID over the past few years, but it felt so natural that so many people showed up and allowed us to get that energy from them,” he said. “You could tell the energy on deck was great. Everyone had so much fun and I think it really showed in the way we swam.”
The Tigers plan to use that intensity from last weekend as a catalyst for success in the final leagues of the season. These competitions, the SEC Championships and NCAA Diving Regionals, are undoubtedly the most important, and they are fast approaching. With about 20 days to go until the SEC matchups, both the swim and dive teams remain focused on refining their performance. As the Tigers have been extremely prepared for the physical aspects of these upcoming games, Jannasch’s main message to his teammates focuses more on their mentality.
“My message to the guys is really just to trust the process and trust what we’re doing,” he explained. “We have a great workforce and they know what they’re doing, so the most important thing is to have faith in what they’re giving us and what they’re doing for us.”
For the Tigers, their trip comes to the Jones Aquatic Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, where the SEC Championships will take place. Fans can tune in live at home through the SEC network. Day 1 of the event starts on February 15th at 10am