Swimming is an individual and team sport, but for Evans High School it has become even more - it's a family sport.
Those family ties will help this week in the Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA state swimming championships in Atlanta, where Evans faces off against nearly 50 other teams, some with more swimmers and more depth, but none with stronger sibling bonds.
Eleven siblings from five families strengthened this year's team and helped prepare Evans for the upcoming state meet, which will cap the prep swim season.
"We will compete rather well," predicted Coach Lane Schuckers, who sees an advantage in having so many siblings on the team. "When siblings are in the water together, there's no doubt they're fired up to swim."
Schuckers is counting on that fire as the team heads to the Atlanta meet, which runs Thursday through Saturday. In addition to the siblings, four other Evans swimmers qualified for the event and will compete at state: Josh Andrews, Neal McGahee, Peter Borchelt and Chelsea Hendry.
Schuckers said he's lucky "all the swimmers are real versatile" because the team needs to cover 11 events and gain team points by placing well. Amanda and Angela Griffin hope to earn some of those points, and they're counting on their sisterly bond to help them.
The girls, who specialize in breaststroke, are so close in time it has been a big training advantage this year.
"We motivate each other," Amanda said.
It's likely the sisters will be seeded side by side in the fastest breaststroke heat, and they look forward to encouraging each other. Sibling rivalry is not a problem because the girls are sisters as well as friends, Angela said.
The races between siblings always bring excitement, said Briana Moody, the middle of three sisters swimming for Evans this season.
"The races siblings are in draw the whole team (to poolside). Everyone cheers. It's really great," said Briana, a diver who will get one last chance to watch her sisters swim together before Rebekah heads off to college on an athletic scholarship.
Although it won't be the same next year, "It will be pretty cool to keep the Moody name going forward," said Nicole, a freshman at Evans.
Blake Sutton also will continue the family legacy, according to his older brother Miles.
The brothers saw a great improvement in their diving skills this year, and went from earning twos and threes to getting eights (out of 10).
"I will miss him as a brother, friend, teammate and competitor," said Miles, who will graduate this year.
Christian Kata also has looked to brothers for inspiration and competition.
Although their older brother Justin is now out of high school and currently competes at the college level, Christian (a senior) and Martin (a freshman) enjoy the rivalry as they spur each other to excel in their favorite stroke, the freestyle.
However, Christian specializes in distance events while Martin likes the sprint, so they can often gather team points and individual places without racing head to head.
When they do, though, the one who touches the wall second can expect a little good-natured ribbing.
"We talk trash a little bit, but it's all in good fun," Christian said. Unlike the Katas, brother and sister duo Drew and Holly Hess never compete head to head, but that means they are available poolside to encourage the other. "We cheer each other on," Drew said.
The siblings have more in common than their love of swimming. Drew and Holly both compete in the same four sports: tennis, soccer, cross country and swimming, and they help each other prepare for upcoming seasons in each sport.
They encourage each other by small favors, such as providing water and congratulations at the finish line after a hard run. As Drew's graduation nears, Holly is contemplating what it will be like without her favorite tennis partner and swim buddy.
"It will be lonely," Holly said, echoing the sentiments of all the team siblings at Evans.
State Swimming and Diving Championships
Thursday through Saturday at Westminster Schools in Atlanta
(State diving was held last week at Westminster)
Columbia County competitors
Evans High School
Girls: 200 Medley Relay - Nicole Moody, Rebekah Moody, CJ Hendry, Angela Griffin; 200 Freestyle - Nicole Moody; 100 Butterfly - R. Moody; 100 Freestyle - Hendry; 200 Freestyle Relay - Angela Griffin, R. Moody, N. Moody, Holly Hess; 100 Backstroke - Hendry; 100 Breaststroke - R. Moody, Angela Griffin, Amanda Griffin; 400 Freestyle Relay - N. Moody, Hendry, Hess, Angela Griffin.
Boys: 200 Medley Relay - Christian Kata, Josh Andrews, Martin Kata, Drew Hess; 200 Freestyle - Peter Borchelt; 200 Individual Medley - Andrews; 50 Freestyle - C. Kata, M. Kata, Hess; 100 Freestyle - M. Kata; 500 Freestyle - Borchelt; 200 Freestyle Relay - C. Kata, Borchelt, Hess, Neal McGahee; 100 Backstroke - Andrews; 400 Freestyle Relay - C. Kata, M. Kata, Hess, Borchelt.
Lakeside High School
Girls: 200 Medley Relay - Sara Davison, Elle Revell, Amanda Rowland, Sarah Caruana; 200 Freestyle - Rebeccah Houston; 1-meter Diving - Courtney Ward (in last week's state diving, Ward scored 275 points to place 12th); 200 Freestyle Relay - Caruana, Davison, Maple Dynan, Katherine Cox; 100 Breaststroke - Houston; 400 Freestyle Relay - Davison, Caruana, Houston, Brandy McCauley.
Boys: 200 Medley Relay - Austin Banks, Kevin Skenes, Eric Hauff, J.R. Barrett; 200 Freestyle - Barrett; 200 Individual Medley - Skenes; 100 Butterfly - Hauff; 500 Freestyle - Barrett; 200 Freestyle Relay - Banks, Hauff, Zack Albrecht, Clay Tuggle; 100 Breaststroke - Skenes; 400 Freestyle Relay - Skenes, Hauff, Banks, Barrett.
Greenbrier High School
Girls: 200 Medley Relay - Katie Croft, Leigh Gunnels, Mary Gunnels, Megan Duffin; 200 Freestyle - Croft, M. Gunnels; 500 Freestyle - Croft; 200 Freestyle Relay - Heather Howard, Ashley Fransoso, Duffin, L. Gunnels; 100 Breaststroke - M. Gunnels; 400 Freestyle Relay - L. Gunnels, M. Gunnels, Croft, Duffin.
Boys: 50 Freestyle - Matthew Duffin; 100 Butterfly - Duffin; 200 Freestyle Relay - Duffin, Alex Trakowski, Greg Manz, Matthew Usry; 1-meter Diving - Tim Barrett (in last week's state diving, Barrett placed fourth in Class AAAA).
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