This article was submitted anonymously to SwimSwam in honor of the last home meet for the Lindenwood Lions. On Dec. 1, it was announced that the school was cutting nine athletics programs, including women’s swimming & diving.
This article is about a beautiful day in the sport of swimming and diving that took place on January 20, 2024.
On December 1, 2023, as the swimmers and divers at Lindenwood University prepared for finals week, it was announced that their program would not be sponsored beyond the 2023-2024 season. In the time since, members of the program have continued to prepare for their final season and beyond.
Following a memorable training camp to Hawaii in December and returning to campus for their final semester together, the Lions suffered a defeat at the hands of the McKendree Bearcats on January 12, 2024.
On January 20, 2024, Lindenwood was scheduled to host the University of Nebraska Omaha for their final home meet in program history. This was their senior meet and their families, friends, and alumni from the NAIA, Division II, and Division I had come from around the world to take part in the event.
One of the challenges the program has always faced has been maintaining consistent access to training and competition space as there is not an aquatics facility on campus. The week prior to the meet, the scheduled competition site was closed for repairs. In the final days before the meet, six pools were contacted to host and several offered space at the last minute. Rescheduling was not an option under these circumstances and the show needed to go on.
On Thursday, January 18, Brad Shively (Head Swimming and Diving Coach) and Brian Lenz (Senior Associate Athletic Director) from Washington University in St. Louis were contacted as a potential host for the meet as their program was out of town competing on the date of competition. Within hours they had put together a plan to host the meet with the requested timeline, even asking if Lindenwood needed timers, officials, or any other administrative assistance. At 4:30 pm on Friday, the evening before the meet, the location and schedule were announced. It was game on!
On the day of the meet, the Lions walked into the Millstone Pool; a pool they had never seen. It was their final home meet and senior day and they didn’t even know how to get into the pool or locker rooms. As they entered the building, there were signs in the facility stating: “Facility closed for Lindenwood’s last meet ever”. In a weird way, it began to feel like the perfect place for this event. As the Lions have always done, they adapted. Program supporters arrived, found their seats in the wooden bleachers and the atmosphere began to warm up. It was a packed house. Many in the stands hadn’t seen each other in years and were meeting spouses and children of their former teammates. To top things off, the Mavs from the University of Nebraska Omaha had written on their shoulders “For the Pride” in support of the Lindenwood swimmers and divers. Already primed with emotion, many in attendance were brought to tears when they saw this act of support.
Once the seniors and families were recognized, the meet was underway. The Millstone Pool was the perfect site for the meet. Having the athletes and fans close to the action made for an engaging experience. The energy was high, and the Lions delivered with an outstanding day of racing and diving. In what seemed like a flash, it was over. Following the meet, the Lions had a team social, a senior dinner, and an alumni social event. It was a beautiful day. Generations of the program came together for an event that almost didn’t happen and focused on the positives together. This has been a challenging year for the Lions and those who care about them. The gestures from the community on January 20 reassured them and all in attendance that sport can be pure and simple. It can bring out the best in people. When people want to help, things aren’t complicated. It was heartwarming to see and feel this take place. From the alumni, staff, student-athletes and families of the Lindenwood Swimming and Diving program, thank you for embracing us. You impacted us in a positive way. We will pay it forward.