COLUMBIA — Standing out in a crowd of 1,224 isn't easy.
Unless you're shirtless in 56-degree weather and shouting for almost two hours.
That's exactly what some members of the MU swimming team did to show support for their fellow athletes; they watched the Missouri soccer team win 1-0 over No. 17 Texas A&M on Friday at Walton Stadium.
The colorful and noisy group of swimmers showed up at the soccer match, removed their shirts and let the rest of the crowd see the art they had painted on their bodies. Each of them had a gold and black letter on their chest and belly. Together, they formed the message "Go Mizzou!"
Enthusiastic soccer fans themselves, the MU swimmers shouted, laughed and jumped throughout the entire game. Waving their hands in the air, they did not seem to care about the chilly weather.
Freshman swimmer Igor Kozlovskij, from Lithuania, said that the atmosphere at Friday's game reminded him of the passion people have for soccer back in Europe.
"I like it here," Kozlovskij said. "It's a little like Europe, where soccer is like a religion."
For most swimmers in the group, Friday's game was the first time they had painted their bodies and attended a Missouri soccer game.
"This is our first time out here," freshman swimmer Mack Darragh said, seconds before jumping and shouting as the soccer team missed a clear scoring chance. "But we have a lot of school spirit."
However, it is tradition for the swimming team to attend at least one MU soccer game and add a little extra enthusiasm to the crowd.
"As athletes ourselves, supporting other athletes is a huge thing for us," junior swimmer Joe Hladik said. "It's just great to see everyone so excited about it, and it helps you perform better."
And they had a chance to prove that during the soccer match.
When freshman Kaysie Clark scored the game's only goal in the 64th minute, the swimmers went ballistic. They jumped off their seats, went down to the bottom row and ran the length of the stands, shouting at both the MU soccer team and the rest of the crowd. The stands shook as the crowd responded, jumping and cheering in celebration.
Fan support proved an important part of Missouri's win, especially in the closing moments of the match, when Texas A&M pushed hard, looking for an equalizer. The Tigers (9-4-0) held on for their first conference win and are now 1-2 in the Big 12.
The Missouri soccer players acknowledged the support they got from the crowd on Friday, especially from their fellow athletes.
"It's so important to us," senior soccer player Kendra Collins said after the game. "It's just one of those camaraderie things. We see each other every day. We're in the dining hall or in the study hall together. It's nice when they come out to the game and support us. We couldn't ask for more. It was a lot of fun."
Collins and the rest of the Missouri team expect a similar amount of support next Sunday when the team is set to host Texas at 1 p.m. at Walton Stadium.