The Panther-Pack Invitational is a celebration of high-school swimming, but one team had extra reason to cheer last weekend at Augusta Aquatics Center.
While Saturday's swimming and diving meet was co-hosted by Lakeside and Greenbrier, Evans made the most waves.
The Knights swept all three relay events en route to their first-ever title at the Panther-Pack, while the Evans girls took second behind Camden County.
In the combined team totals, Evans took top honors by beating Camden County.
"Coming into this season we knew we had some good freshman coming up, especially on the girls' side," Evans senior Ben Lewis said. "We knew they could take us over the top. That's exactly what's happened."
The Panther-Pack featured 24 schools and nearly 400 swimmers, but for Columbia County's contingent there was a competition within the competition.
Just like any sport, the local rivalry spills over into the pool.
"It may not be like basketball, but, yes, there is a rivalry in swimming," Evans senior Ben Lewis said. "Evans and Lakeside always go at it. Ever since I was a freshman, it's been pretty intense."
The Knights heated things up from the start, opening the meet with a win in the 200-yard Medley Relay. The Lakeside boys stuck close throughout the meet, but settled for second place.
"Evans has a real good team this year," Lakeside's J.R. Barrett said. "Both the Katas are definitely the best swimmers in Columbia County."
Evans was led by freshman Martin Kata, who keyed two relays and won two individual events. That showing helped pick up the slack for his older brother - senior Christina Kata has been struggling with a back injury that limited his action at the Panther-Pack.
The Lady Knights, meanwhile, couldn't catch Camden County, but senior Rebekah Moody didn't mind the second-place finish.
"The teams that come to these meets have a lot of numbers, and out team is a little bit smaller," Moody said. "To be able to finish second is a big accomplishment."
The Panther-Pack also prepared swimmers for the season's stretch run. Columbia County's teams will square off in the CSRA Championships Thursday at Augusta Aquatics Center, then the top athletes will compete next month at the Georgia High School Association state meet in Atlanta.
"For those who haven't qualified for state, it's crunch time," Lakeside coach Jessica Hales said. "We're looking forward to the CSRA Championships. We can showcase what we can do against the other local teams."
Greenbrier diver Tim Barrett showed what he can do with a convincing win at the Panther-Pack.
"He's one of the best divers in the area," Greenbrier coach Holly McCorkle said of the Pack freshman. "We're really excited about him."
Considering how his swimmers fared last Saturday, Evans coach Lane Schuckers has a right to be very excited.
"The kids are swimming real well right now," he said. "We're just trying to get ready for state. That's what we've been focusing on from the beginning of the season."
Girls: 1. Camden County 337; 2. Evans 288.50; 4. Lakeside 262; 5. Greenbrier 157.
Boys: 1. Evans 415; 2. Lakeside 348; 6. Greenbrier 151.
Combined: 1. Evans 703.50; 3. Lakeside 610; 5. Greenbrier 308.
Columbia County's event winners
Girls: 1-meter Diving, Courtney Ward, Lakeside (306.40); 400 Freestyle Relay, Evans (3:50.92).
Boys: 200 Medley Relay, Evans (1:45.70); 200 Freestyle, Martin Kata, Evans (1:49.72); 50 Freestyle, Martin Kata, Evans (:22.25); 1-meter Diving, Tim Barrett, Greenbrier (381.70); 100 Butterfly, Eric Hauff, Lakeside (:57.86); 200 Freestyle Relay, Evans (1:35.97); 400 Freestyle Relay, Evans (3:30.26).
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