LMU senior Lanna Kozlowski is aware that she doesn’t look like a Division I swimmer.
“There’s swimmers who are really naturally talented. You know, they’re 6 feet tall and really lanky,” she said. “I was always that one who was 5-foot-5 working really, really hard.”
However, what she lacks in size, she makes up for in experience. She has been swimming competitively since the age of 5 and has always been drawn to the pool.
“My parents kind of threw me into it and it just kind of stuck immediately,” she said. “My dad is always like, ‘We couldn’t keep you away from the water. You always wanted to be in the water.’ So it just came naturally.”
Her desire to swim drove her experiences in the pool, from her time on the elite DART Swimming club team in her hometown of Davis to her role as co-captain on the Davis Senior High School swim team, which consisted of more than 100 swimmers during her senior year.
For Kozlowski, swimming isn’t just about her own success and the success of the teams she swims for. It’s about helping others, and she has done so as a volunteer with a Special Olympics program that helps kids with intellectual disabilities learn how to swim and be more comfortable in the water.
“Even the little things were huge for them. [For] some of them, even putting their toe in the water was huge,” she said. “I think that it really made me appreciate swimming itself and just being able to do these things and then being able to help others. It was really cool and rewarding.”
In spite of all of her swimming experience, by the time her senior year of high school rolled around, Kozlowski wasn’t sure that she was good enough to continue her career at a collegiate level.
“Coming from an elite club team, a lot of my teammates were going to places like Cal and Texas and big top-10 programs,” she said. “So I figured [I’d] just go to school [and] maybe swim recreationally.”
Her coaches and parents had other plans for her and convinced her that she had the talent to keep going. Kozlowski began to explore Division I swimming programs, with a particular focus on Southern California. Prior to this, she had never heard of LMU and didn’t know anyone who attended, but the more she learned, the more she fell in love with the school.
Throughout her time with the Lions, Kozlowski found consistent individual success. The Pacific Collegiate Swim Conference (PCSC) has named her swimmer of the week four times and she also made all-conference teams on multiple occasions. Fittingly, she saved one of her best performances for last.
The WCC Cup is a two-day meet between LMU, Pepperdine and the University of San Diego. It was hosted at Burns Aquatics Center this year, making it the final home event of Kozlowski’s career. With her parents watching in the stands, she delivered, winning both the 1650-yard freestyle and the 500-yard freestyle races. The 1650 victory came in particularly dominant fashion as Kozlowski finished more than 26 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher.
“It was just a really, really fun day. And I think that that always helps,” she said. “When you’re having fun, it makes it a lot easier. That’s not common for every swim meet. So I think when you’re stress-free, you’re in a good mood. Things come more naturally.”
When talking about the success of her career more generally, Kozlowski made a point to praise assistant coach Kelsey Cummings, a former distance swimmer with whom Kozlowski has worked closely.
“I have a really great assistant coach,” Kozlowski said. “I think just having people that know what you need and know how to communicate with you, know how to work with you, is really important.”
Kozlowski is now less than three weeks away from her last swim in crimson and blue. She has been able to take a little bit of time to reflect on her journey — and she keeps coming back to the work she put in to compensate for her size.
“I think it’s a really hard thing to learn,” she said. “But I think it’s also really rewarding because I feel like I learned a lot more by having it not come so naturally to me.”