Flanked by children canoeing on one side and a dive team on the other, close to a dozen swimmers from throughout the Southeast competed in the 1-mile race at Wildwood Park on Saturday.
For some it was a chance to swim with high caliber athletes, for others it was a warm up for the next day's triathlon.
The race was part of the third annual Publix Family Fitness Weekend.
Ashley Carusone, 17, of High Springs, Fla., came in first with a time of 16:33 and her younger sister Julie, 15, finished second. The duo expected to compete in Sunday's triathlon and Ashley said the short swim helped her become accustomed to the water conditions.
"There wasn't as much current as I expected," she said. "It's not as choppy as the ocean is."
This is the third year the sisters have made the trip with their family. Ashley said they stayed up most of the previous night walking through the park.
"This is like our family vacation," she said.
For two local swimmers, the event served as a measuring stick.
Nicole Moody, 12, and Martin Kata, 13, are both students at Evans Middle School. Nicole, who swims in the Aiken-Augusta Swim League, said that was the longest distance she has ever swam in open water.
"I learned to pace myself," Nicole said. "Those girls were way in front of me."
The weekend began with a 5K run that featured runners from all age groups, including a 65-year-old and a 12-year-old. It ended Sunday after the Coca-Cola Classic Triathlon and the Nestle Sprintkids Triathlon, where parents were allowed to help their children compete.
"That's more to get the kids involved in the sport," said Columbia County Services Director Frank Neal. "It's just a family event."
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