Saturday’s Panther Invitational at the Augusta Aquatic Center wasn’t so much about winning and losing as it was about swimming fast enough and earning high enough diving scores to qualify for the GHSA State Swimming and Diving Championships on Feb. 8.
The two biggest chances for county athletes are the Columbia County Championships, Tuesday, Jan. 22 and the CSRA Championships on Jan. 29 where the tension will be ratcheted up from the fairly casual atmosphere of Saturday’s meet.
Joining host Lakeside were Greenbrier, Westside, Woodward Academy and Spalding.
“Our biggest goal is to get more kids to state,” said Lakeside coach Martin Kata, “We have some new swimmers and we’re also trying to improve times.”
Greenbrier head coach Kristen Schlegel was hoping the rare Saturday meet would help.
“Usually we get them after school when they’re a little tired, but today they’re fresh and hopefully they’re ready to go,” she said.
Schlegel had a few swimmers qualify on Saturday, including freshman Brennan Day in the 200 yard individual medley and Dallin Tippett.
“I’m trying to get times to qualify instead of exactly winning,” said Tippet after finishing second in the 50 freestyle but failing to qualify. In the event he was really focused on, however, Tippett finished first in the 100 backstroke (59.35), advancing to the states in the process.
Greenbrier sophomore Andrew Hogue, who has previously qualified on the team’s 400 medley relay, was 11-hundreths of a second too slow to qualify for the 100 butterfly, but it came with a silver lining.
“Finishing first feels really good,” said Hogue, the event’s winner. “I’ve been working at qualifying for two years, and as a non-year round swimmer it’s tough.”
Four divers competing, C.J. Simmons and Ayanna Woods, of Greenbrier, Ryan Vincenzetti, of Lakeside and Meghan Zets, of Grovetown, had already qualified, while Grovetown’s Shantel Rausch and Katelyn Morgan achieved high enough scores Saturday to join them.
Those already qualified had one less thing to worry about.
“It didn’t go that well, it wasn’t one of my better ones,” said Vincenzetti. “Good thing I already qualified,” he added laughing.
It was also about preparing for the upcoming meet.
“I’m trying to get better skills for the states today,” said the senior Zets. “I want to be in the top five this year.”