LSU mom Helena Duplantis to not forget Mother's Day doubleheader in Fayetteville, Arkansas
BATON ROUGE Neither Antoine nor Armand Duplantis gave the customary card, flowers, or other gifts to their mom on Mother's Day on Sunday.
But Helena Duplantis, a LSU dual athlete from Sweden who competed in the heptathlon for the track team and in volleyball from 1985-89, nevertheless racked up.
Antoine, a senior right fielder on the baseball team from Lafayette High and Helena's second oldest, hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning Saturday afternoon to give the slumping Tigers a 3-2 win at No. 4 Arkansas. They had lost the first two games of the series, 14-4 and 11-6, at Baum-Walker Stadium for their fourth and fifth consecutive losses.
Now, 20th-ranked LSU (31-21) is up to No. 22 from No. 24 in the Ratings Percentage Index that the NCAA uses to determine hosts for the postseason and is tied for fifth in the Southeastern Conference at 15-12. The Tigers could move up more as they host struggling Auburn (30-21, 13-14 SEC) Thursday through Saturday at Alex Box Stadium to close the regular season. LSU hosts the University of New Orleans at 6:30 tonight in its final mid-week game of the season.
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After Antoine's homer, just down Razorback Road from Baum-Walker in Fayetteville, Arkansas, at John McDonnell Field, Helena's third oldest, Armand "Mondo" Duplantis, who is a freshman world class pole vaulter on the LSU track team, presented his mom with another gift later Saturday night. He set the collegiate outdoor record with a vault of 19 feet, 8 and one-fourth inches to win the SEC title. The clearance broke the previous NCAA record of 19-7.5 set by Tennessee's Lawrence Johnson in 1996.
Last August in Berlin, Germany, Duplantis, who is also out of Lafayette High, set the world record for under age 20 pole vaulters with a 19-10.25 clearance at the European Championships while competing for his mother's native country of Sweden.
While Antoine Duplantis' home run breathed life back into the Tigers' baseball season, Armand's record vault Saturday night helped LSU win its first outdoor SEC track championship since 1990.
But Helena's favorite Mother's Day weekend present happened on Friday when Duplantis graduated from LSU in sports administration during a ceremony with nine other graduating LSU baseball players at the team hotel, which was a Holiday Inn in nearby Springdale.
"Having your child graduate from college is such a proud moment," Helena said Monday. "It was a very nice graduation for the seniors."
Then came Saturday.
"To sit in the right field stands and watch your son hit a three-run home run that turned out to be the game winning runs was surreal," Helena said. "And then go down the street on campus to the track and field stadium and be part of Mondo setting the collegiate record, winning the SEC, and being part of a SEC team title, it is very hard to put words to the feelings you have at that moment as a mother."
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Helena's husband Greg Duplantis, a LSU pole vaulter from 1982-86 out of Lafayette high who became an All-American and an Olympic alternate, was also there as both are volunteer coaches on the track team. Their 16-year-old daughter Johanna Duplantis, a world class pole vaulter and soccer player at Lafayette High, also made the trip. The only child missing was oldest son Andreas, a top LSU pole vaulter from 2012-15 who graduated in textile, apparel and merchandising from LSU and works in New York City.
"Definitely one of the best mother's day gifts a mother can wish for," Helena said.
"I think Mom had a very happy Mother's Day," her husband said. "Hard to top that. We've had a lot of good athletic weekends with the kids over the years, but it's hard to beat a game-winning home run and a collegiate pole vaulting record. That was the first time both Antoine and Mondo have been competing on the road at the same place."
Mondo praised Antoine, whose nickname is "Twanny," for motivating him to the record.
"I had my brother to hype me up," Mondo said on the SEC Network. "I didn't want to be the second best athlete in the family after him and that three-run yabo shot against Arkansas in the eighth."
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Antoine said his brother accomplished the larger feat. "Definitely," he said. "I hit a home run. He broke a 23-year-old record."
Dad saw it differently.
"To me, Antoine's home run was more significant to the team," Greg Duplantis said. "LSU would have won the SEC outdoor title without Mondo's record. Twanny's home run came at the right time, and it was a very important win for LSU. Arkansas is a tough team to beat at home, and we had lost five in a row."
And don't forget Johanna, who they call "Yo." The youngest Duplantis just won the Class 5A state title in the pole vault for Lafayette High.
"She really set the tone for the whole week," Dad said.
But the best part was everybody saw both.
"We were lucky," Dad said. "It was getting late at the baseball game, because we had to get to the track in time for warm-ups. It was close."
They left right after the homer.
The Duplantis family was also fortunate that the LSU baseball and track teams stayed at the same hotel in Springdale.
"We all hung out. The boys came to our room. We all just sat around and chatted. It was great." Dad said.
"It was really cool that my whole family just happened to be there," Antoine said. "It's not often that we're all at the same place at the same time. It was crazy."
And the weekend did not end in Arkansas. There was a Mother's Day dinner back home in Lafayette Sunday night at the Duplantis home after Helena, Greg and Johanna drove the eight hours, and their sons flew to Baton Rouge with their respective teams and drove to Lafayette.
"We were all pretty exhausted," Dad said.
But a good fatigue.
"The weekend could not have ended any better," Mom said. "It was absolutely amazing."