One by one, the Missouri senior swimmers came through the tunnel formed by their teammates, hugged their coaches and took pictures with their parents before heading to the opposite side of the pool. After every senior had come through, their teammates roared "M-I-Z" and the seniors chanted back "Z-O-U." It was an ideal and, for some, an emotional start to the final home meet of the season.
The Tiger women rode the Senior Day energy to a 191-109 victory over Drury, and the Tiger men did the same, 173-127.
“We swam awesome today," senior Melissa Jamerson said. "All of us had smiles on our faces, we were just having fun.”
Some of the fun came from the stands, where the Mini-Mizzou pep band and Truman the Tiger joined parents and fans. It was the first time the band had appeared at a Missouri swim meet.
Missouri coach Greg Rhodenbaugh said he enjoyed the positive energy the band brought.
The band's song choices ranged from the MU fight song and alma mater to Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger." When the band played Bruce Channel's "Hey Baby" during a break, a group of seniors from the women's team — including Jamerson and Francie Szostak — stood up and danced.
Szostak, who won two events and cracked the record books with a 2:01.38 swim in the 200-yard individual medley for second best in school history, could be seen dancing, smiling and hugging her fellow seniors throughout the meet.
“That’s pretty much me every day," Szostak said. "At morning practice or a serious meet. I’m like that all the time, but it was fun having the band here today. We had a lot of fun with that.”
Missouri seniors won 10 events, and Jamerson and Anastasia Sotiropoulos took the top two spots in the women 200-yard butterfly.
“(Sotiropoulos) was my roomie for two years and we’ve been training fly all four years together," Jamerson said. "We’ve always battled it out in practice, and for us to go as fast as we did today, it was awesome.”
After their victory, the two seniors walked over to each other and leapt toward one another in an imitation touchdown celebration.
“We have a little high five before races,” Jamerson said. “We always thought the football players did a really cool thing, so we tried to do that too.”
Coach Rhodenbaugh, in his first season as MU coach, said he is really pleased with his first group of seniors and that he will miss their personalities more than anything else.
“Your team goes as your senior leadership is, and the seniors have done a great job of leading and a great job of bracing some pretty significant changes that were made in the program," Rhodenbaugh said. "They believed in it early and they're starting to reap the benefits of that.”
Missouri next competes in the Big 12 Championships from Februrary 23-26 in Austin, Texas.