COLUMBIA — Moments before the Missouri women's swimming and diving team's final practice, the hallways of the MU Aquatic Center are full of energy. Some managers argue over their picks in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Two athletes are thrilled about a fresh order of nationals T-shirts that just arrived.
Not even the resignation of 18-year Missouri head coach Brian Hoffer can thwart the excitement of the national championships.
Women's NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving Championships
When: March 18-20
Where: West Lafayette, Ind.
Qualifying Athletes: Dominique Bouchard (100-, 200-yard freestyle), Christina Gailey (platform), Kim Jasmer (50-, 100-, 200-yard freestyle), Lauren Lavigna (100-, 200-yard backstroke), Jordan Morcom (3-yard springboard)
This Thursday through Saturday, five members of the team will compete at the NCAA Division I Women's Swimming and Diving Championships in West Lafayette, Ind., a chance to wear the new T-shirts.
“I went for the first time last year, and I was just blown away at how competitive all of the teams were,” said Missouri junior Lauren Lavigna, who will be competing in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke. “This is like Big 12 (championships) times 10. It’s so intense.”
However, uncertainty arose last week for a program with 12 straight winning seasons when Hoffer resigned. But in times of adversity, teammates and coaches are there for each other, interim head coach Chris Peters said.
“Obviously change is scary and change is difficult, but we’re all going through it together,” Peters said. “It’s good to have people to lean on.”
Peters said his goal is to keep everything constant in the program. He was elevated at a hectic time in the season, and he said the focus is on the players competing in the NCAA Championships.
One of those athletes is freestyle and butterfly swimmer Kim Jasmer. She will be competing in the 50-, 100- and 200-yard freestyle at nationals.
“Obviously it’s a weakness in the fact that we have to deal with the emotions of last week right before our competition,” Jasmer said. “But Chris is a strong leader and a strong coach, and I don’t think we’re worried about the outcome as long as we support each other.”
Despite having a different coach to finish the season, the swimmers are still focused. Lavigna said that some of this comes from experience. She recently competed at the world championships and holds the school records in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke.
“It’s one of the fastest meets in the world,” Lavigna said. “I feel like I don’t have really anything to lose, so maybe I’ll be a little nervous when we get there.”
Because of the short time period between the resignation and nationals, having a new coach is not going to affect how the team swims, Lavigna and Jasmer said. They said that Peters is a great motivator, and he is a big factor in the positive energy heading into the tournament.
“I’m very proud of the team,” Peters said. “The kids have been very resilient and worked very hard the past week.
“This is a team that works for everything they have, and I’ve seen that continue. I’ve seen exactly what I’ve seen all season, which is a pretty committed team.”