The SEC Championships are meaningful for the athletes and coaches involved. All the hard work these athletes put into every practice and meet are in preparation for the championships.
The SEC Championships take place from February 18th to 22nd in Auburn. They will feature some of the best talent in the country, as seven men’s teams and nine women’s teams in the SEC rank in the top-25, including both LSU teams.
“It’s what the SEC is,” said Coach Dave Geyer. “It’s a crazy conference where any team that finishes last or next-to-last at this meet can still be top-25 in the country.”
This is likely the toughest event the Tigers will attend and that’s saying a lot. In January alone, they faced three top-25 teams, two of which will be in attendance next week.
With all the competition and meaning involved in this meet, it’s easy for the younger athletes to feel the pressure of the event and blow it out of proportion. Each coach emphasized how important it is for their athletes to keep a level head during the meet.
Diving coach Doug Shaffer acknowledged that this meet is unique, calling it “electric” and “dynamic”, but he wants the team to “not make it bigger than it is” and “treat this like any other meet”.
“I tried to prepare them for what the meet is going to be like so that they’re not surprised,” stated Shaffer. “Control what [we] can control, and with the things [we] can’t control, don’t worry about it.”
Each athlete has a different mindset depending on how many times they’ve competed in the championships.
On one side, Freshman Katarina Milutinovich is excited, but doesn’t know what to expect.
“It’s my first SEC Championship so I think my first goal is to just experience it and [see] how it goes.” said Milutinovich.
On the other side, senior Alexandria Ham considered it “bittersweet” swimming in her last SEC Championships, stating that “it’s weird to think about the four years getting to compete here and having that come to an end.”
This meet is completely different from any other meet the team has swam in this season. There will be around 1100-1200 fans from throughout the conference cheering on their teams. There isn’t a single athlete there who’s holding back.
Coach Geyer has been to almost every kind of meet imaginable, from national championships to Olympic Trials. But to him, nothing compares to this meet’s environment.
“It’s a really fun meet to be involved with,” said Geyer. “If our athletes can just do what they’re capable of doing, it’s going to be a great meet.”