Jan. 31, 2014
By: ROBBY VERONESI
Family. Change. Discovery. Enlightening. Emotional.
These are simply a few words to describe the final season in the careers of 11 seniors that have been through a lot in their four or five years in Knoxville. A massive meet against Florida is a day away, but the Gators are the backstory this Saturday. The focus will be on the senior class.
The group--consisting of Tori Lamp, Sam Rairden, Sam Petersen, Oystein Hetland, Clint Johnson, Renato Prono, Carl Svagerko, Lindsay Gendron, Lauren Solernou, Grace Anne Sanderson, and Kate McNeilis--witnessed the formation of a combined swimming and diving program, as well as a revolving door of coaching changes.
The regular season end is near, but Saturday is still another meet, as far as the seniors are concerned.
"As a team, we're preparing the way that we usually do and we're really staying connected," said Sanderson. "What the seniors have done this year is try and set up something that we know will be successful when we leave."
Leaving a legacy that can stand through any trial or hurdle resonates throughout the squad. All of the success, the records, or the SEC and NCAA titles have come on the back of hard work, determination, and perseverance, something head coach Matt Kredich has instilled from the time he took over the program.
"We've had a whole lot of success as a combined program, largely because of their leadership," said Kredich. "I'm incredibly grateful to them for not only sharing my vision, but actually creating a vision that I'm sharing."
The lone senior diver can attest to this mentality. Lamp, a Knoxville native, went through a tough first two years, including dealing with injury and illness. Now, Lamp is the holder of numerous SEC medals, as well as the 2013 CSCAA National Diver of the Year last season.
"(Those first two years) really made me grow up," said Lamp. "You really have to persevere through those moments, push through, and be able to look at the big picture and not get caught up in what you're doing."
"She's a great competitor and has done some great things," said head diving coach Dave Parrington. "To see her reap the benefits of all that passion and perseverance is really special for me to be a part of."
As the final chapters are written in the careers of these 11 Tennessee seniors, what stands out is not necessarily the many records or medals won, but the leadership and maturity that is displayed both in and out of the pool. As Kredich describes, a collective identity was formed a couple seasons ago and that team-oriented mindset has stood out since then.
"When an individual shares their goals or their dreams with their family or their friends or their co-workers, it becomes a shared reality," said Kredich. "Swimming and diving is really just kind of a lab for that sort of experiment.
"(The seniors) bring strength and levity to the program that I think is going to leave a void that the rest of the group is going to have to step into. They're a whole lot of fun."