Hundreds of swimsuit-clad children and teens lined the walls of the Augusta Aquatics Center waiting to compete, some for the last time.
The CSRA Swim League Divisional and All-Star Championship meets were last week and included several swim teams from Columbia County. Some of the competitors were recent high-school graduates swimming in their last year of eligibility in the league.
The league's maximum age for competitors is 18, and for the veterans making their last splash last week, the finale spawned a wave of emotions.
"It's a little strange knowing this is my last meet," said Peter Caruana, 18, a recent graduate of Lakeside High School, who is competing with and coaching the Cambridge-Stevens Pointe team. "I'm trying not to think of it as my last season. I'm planning on coming back next year to continue coaching."
Caruana, who will be attending the University of Georgia in the fall, isn't the only one who plans to continue coaching, even though he can no longer compete.
"I'm concentrating on doing well for my team. Whether or not this is my last time competing doesn't factor into right now," said Evans graduate Sharon Rogers, 17, who coaches a young girls relay team. The soon-to-be Georgia Southern University student also plans to continue coaching next summer.
Farmington swim team members Erika Johnson 14, left, has friend Sarabeth Eller, 13, write messages of team support on her back. They competed at the CSRA Swim League Divisional and Championship meet.
Photo by Annette M. Drowlette
Fellow Georgia Southern-bound student Josh Duffin, 18, also swam in his last competitive meet last week.
"I'm excited and a little sad at the same time," said Duffin, who recently graduated from Greenbrier. "I started swimming as a little kid and hated it at first, but I grew to truly love it. Even though I may not be competing any more, swimming will always be a big part of my life."
Columbia County produces several swim teams for one simple reason, said CSRA Swim League President Gil Eustice.
"That's where all the swimming pools are," he said. "There are a lot of neighborhood pools in Columbia County. That lends itself to team sponsorship. We get a lot of good swimmers from there."
Brooks Mischel, 7, competes in the relay swim meet doing the butterfly stroke with the team from Woodbridge.
Photo by Annette M. Drowlette
The lone county team in Division 1 was Petersburg Racquet Club. The Crocodiles placed third in the largest CSRA Swim League division.
Columbia County teams competing in the Division 2 Championships were the Woodbridge Beavers, the Farmington-Northwood Fins, the Jones Creek Sharks, the Spring Lakes Stingrays and the Cambridge-Stevens Pointe Piranhas. The only other team competing was the North Augusta Country Club Dolphins.
Cambridge-Stevens Pointe cruised to the division crown, as the Piranhas claimed their third straight CSRA Divisional championship.
Columbia County's Rivershyre team was the class of Division 3. The Tigersharks capped an unbeaten season with an easy win last week at Augusta Aquatics Center. The West Lake Dolphins settled for fifth place in Division 3.
In Division 4, another Columbia County squad stroked to the title, as Stratford swam past Augusta Country Club. Glennwood placed third, while Augusta Jewish Community Center - whose home pool is in Evans - was fourth.
Divisional championship team scores
Division 1: Fermata 1,106; Houndslake 782; Petersburg Racquet Club 673; Hammond Hills 510; Woodside 429.5.
Division 2: Cambridge-Stevens Pointe 747; Farmington-Northwood 605.5; Jones Creek 584; Woodbridge 557; Spring Lakes 534; North Augusta Country Club 462.5.
Division 3: Rivershyre 909; Montclair 712; National Hills 657; Brynwood 518; West Lake 440.
Division 4: Stratford 761; Augusta Country /lub 523; Glennwood 472; Augusta Jewish Community Center 369; Richmond County 351.
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