The good news is he's getting faster. The bad news is he's getting less sleep.
Justin Kata, a senior swimmer at Evans High School, wanted to lower his time in the 400-meter individual medley from 4:14 to 4:08. To keep focused on his goal, Kata set his alarm for 4:08 a.m., every day.
A few weeks ago, he not only met his goal, he improved on it by one second - leaving him to ponder whether to adjust his wake-up time.
"I don't want to have to start waking up earlier," Kata said. "I may get rid of that superstition."
Whatever time he decides to wake up, it won't change the fact that he is one of the area's - and the state's - best swimmers.
To prove that point, he won two events - the 100- and 200-meter breast stroke - during the state championships held three weekends ago in Atlanta. The meet featured top swimmers from year-round leagues. Kata swims for the Aiken-Augusta Swim League along with the Evans High School team.
He wasn't always one of the top Dogs, though. As a timid freshman, he lacked the attitude needed to separate himself from the pack. As a confident senior, his high school coach said, attitude isn't a problem.
During a race, coach Lane Schuckers noticed that Kata got too quick a start off the block and wondered why his swimmer didn't better pace himself.
"He said he just wanted to make sure they knew they weren't going to be in the race," Schuckers said. "That's attitude."
Before learning attitude and how to shave seconds off his time, Kata was a 10-year-old swimming for the Fort Gordon team. Once the team merged with ASL, he developed a desire to improve.
"After a while, I wanted to train," he said. "I loved going to practice."
His work is a few months away from paying off. He is considering swimming for Clemson, Maryland, Tennessee or the Naval Academy. Kata said a scholarship would be nice but he will choose the school that best suits his academic and athletic needs.
Once he gets to college, Kata said, he hopes to improve on that personal time which rules his alarm clock. To just get into the Senior Invitational, a meet he said was second only to the Olympics, Kata knows he will need to register a 3:56.
"That's definitely a goal," he said. "It was long term - hopefully it's getting shorter."
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