Less than a month ago, Christian Kata's back problems were so bad that his doctor wouldn't even allow the Evans High School swimmer in the water.
Evans High School swimmer Christian Kata rebounded from back problems last year to capture a state title last weekend.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
There's nothing wrong with his heart, though, as Kata showed in Atlanta last weekend at the Class AAAAA swimming championships.
The senior swam to a state title in the 50-yard freestyle, becoming the first Columbia County athlete to win a Georgia High School Association state swimming crown since Evans' Kevin Erndl earned the 50- and 100-yard freestyle championships in 1998.
Kata was expected to contend for top honors at state this season, but not in the 50 freestyle - his specialty is distance events, where he placed third at state in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events last year.
The bad back kept Kata out of his best events this season, but he was determined to finish his prep career in style.
That's exactly what happened in the 50 freestyle state finals last Saturday at Westminster School. Kata posted a time of 21.26 seconds to nip Brookwood's Craig Jennings by a three-tenths of a second.
"We were shocked. He was actually behind, but somehow he got his hand to the wall first," Evans coach Lane Schuckers said. "He kept saying he was going to win it. It was fitting justice that he was able to win."
Evans rode the Kata factor to a sixth-place finish in the Class AAAAA team standings (119 points), the best state showing ever for the Knights.
Christian competed in all three relay events, while younger brother Martin Kata finished fifth in the 50 freestyle, third in the 100 freestyle and also swam two relays for Evans.
The Lady Knights also fared well, placing 20th at state. Freshman CJ Hendry had the best individual performance for Evans, notching a sixth-place in the 100 backstroke.
Evans picked up crucial points in relay events, where all six of its relay teams advanced to the state finals for the first time in school history.
"We did real well," Schuckers said. "We had 11 seniors, and it's going to be hard to replace them, but we have a good group of freshmen coming back."
Lakeside and Greenbrier also sent a number of athletes to the combined Class A-AAAA state swimming and diving championships.
Freshman Tim Barrett paced the Wolfpack, placing fourth in the 1-meter diving event, while Lakeside was led by junior Kevin Skenes, who finished eighth in the 100 backstroke.
Columbia County officially closed its winter high school sports season with the conclusion of wrestling and basketball postseason action this month.
In the Class AAAA state wrestling championships, two Panthers made their mark last weekend in Rome.
Lakeside's Tim Mitchem placed third at state in the 125-pound weight class, and Mike Ingham was sixth in 140-pound weight class.
Despite the high finishes of the two Lakeside juniors, and top 12 showings by Donaven Lowe (215) and Eddie Lee (145) the Panthers settled for 31st in the team standings, with 41 points.
"I think some of our wrestlers were disappointed we didn't score more points," Lakeside coach Randy Hill said. "I'm proud of our kids. Tim did a great job. He has a chance to win state next year, but he's got to get stronger and work a little harder."
Greenbrier wrestler Jay Adkins finished 10th in the 275-pound weight class at the Class AAAA championships.
The Evans wrestling team, meanwhile, sent two qualifiers to the Class AAAAA championships last weekend in Macon. Alex Lochren (125) and Javier Rosa (275) both went 1-2 in the double-elimination meet.
The local basketball season fizzled earlier this month in Macon, where the Augusta Prep and Augusta Christian teams all lost in the first round of the Georgia Independent School Association Class AAA state tournament.
The Augusta Prep girls lost 42-26 to Central Fellowship, while the Cavaliers fell to First Presbyterian Day, 72-44
Augusta Christian's Lady Lions ended the season with a 50-32 defeat to Stratford Academy, and the AC boys were eliminated with a 70-51 loss to Tattnall Square Academy.
Class AAAAA state swimming championships
Event finishes for Evans
Boys: 200-yard Medley Relay - Christian Kata, Martin Kata, Josh Andrews, Drew Hess (seventh, 1:43.04); 200 freestyle - Peter Borchelt (16th, 1:54.00); 50 Freestyle - C. Kata (first, 21.26), M. Kata (fifth, 22.18); 100 Freestyle - M. Kata (third, 48.72); 200 Freestyle Relay - Neal McGahee, Hess, C. Kata, Borchelt (10th, 1:32.80); 400 Freestyle Relay - Hess, Borchelt, C. Kata, M. Kata (fourth, 3:18.19).
Girls: 200-yard Medley Relay - CJ Hendry, Angela Griffin, Rebekah Moody, Nicole Moody (12th, 1:55.11); 100 Butterfly - R. Moody (14th, 1:46); CJ Hendry (10th, 54.44); 200 Freestyle Relay - R. Moody, N. Moody, Holly Hess, Griffin (16th, 1:45.99); 100 Backstroke - Hendry (sixth, 1:28); 100 Breaststroke - R. Moody (15th, 1:10.84); 400 Freestyle Relay - Griffin, Hess, Hendry, N. Moody (15th, 3:51.56).
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