Christian Kata measures success in minutes and seconds.
The Evans High School swimmer is always trying to beat the clock, because most times that's the only competition he's got.
"Basically, I never look at who my competition is," said Kata, who hasn't come close to losing to any local athlete this season. "I don't worry about who's swimming next to me. I like to challenge myself and race against the clock."
Kata started swimming competitively at age 8, and over the years he has excelled for the Aiken-Augusta Swim League and with his summer league squad at Spring Lakes.
Every time he stepped on a starting block was a time for focus. Each stroke has been part of a master plan.
"When you do any sport, you want to be the best you can be," said Kata, who has signed a scholarship to swim at University of South Carolina. "For pretty much my whole life it's been a goal to swim in college."
Now that's he's a senior at Evans, Kata knows time is of the essence. There's only one thing missing from his prep swimming resume, and he's poised to fill that void next month at the Class AAAAA state championships.
"It would be really cool to win a state championship my senior year, just to put Evans on the map," Kata said. "Once you get to state, there are some kids from Atlanta who are really fast. You have to have a positive outlook, not worry and go out and have fun. If I don't win, I won't be disappointed. I'm going more for personal times."
If Kata shaves a few seconds off his best times at state, the Knight might become king.
As a junior last year, he finished third at the state meet in both the 200-meter and 500-meter freestyle events. His current PR in the 200 (1:40.6) and 500 (4:35) are close to state-title winning times.
Still, being close doesn't make the quest any easier.
"I guess you could say the state meet is kind of tense," Kata said. "It's different from every other swim meet. People there are really dedicated to swimming."
Kata knows about dedication. During his career, he's logged enough laps in the pool to cross an ocean, and a 12,000-yard day at practice is a price he's willing to pay.
"A lot of people don't think swimming is a sport, and they don't think it's that hard," he said. "People don't understand that you have to practice every day. If you miss a day, it takes two to recover. The more you practice, the better you're going to be."
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