Eric Hauff says there is nothing like swimming toward the wall and knowing the guy leaping over you into the pool will give it his all.
Lakeside's Austin Banks (clockwise, from upper left) Kevin Skenes, J.R. Barrett and Eric Hauff are all senior swimmers on the 200-yard individual medley relay team.
That is the desire every relay swimmer has, but sometimes that trust can't be established.
Trust is definitely not a problem on the Lakeside boys medley team.
Hauff, Kevin Skenes, J.R. Barrett and Austin Banks make up the 200-yard medley relay team, which uses the four strokes - freestyle, backstroke, butterfly and breaststroke - in a single race. Each swimmer swims a different stroke for 50 yards.
"Trust holds the relay together," Hauff said. "You have to know everyone will swim their hardest. You have to every time and we all know there isn't a weak link in our team."
The four teens have been together since freshmen at Lakeside and have swam together for Greater Augusta Swimming. That has allowed the team to know each other's strengths and weaknesses.
"I think experience can actually overcome a team that might be slightly faster," Skenes said.
Building a strong medley team requires a coach to select swimmers in each discipline. Sometimes this selection includes a new swimmer, who specializes in a specific stroke and isn't accustomed to swimming in relays.
That hasn't been a concern for the Panthers because all four team members are seniors.
"They each have different swimming specialities, and when they come together in the relay, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, resulting in their 200 Medley Relay being currently ranked sixth in the state," said coach Jessica Hales.
Barrett swims the backstroke, Skenes swims the breaststroke, Hauff competes in the fly and Banks anchors the team in the freestyle.
The team finished eighth last season but they hope, with the sixth-fastest time in Class AAAA, they can finish better this year.
"We weren't really sure what to expect with some schools moving down from Class-AAAAA," said Skenes, a Lakeside boys team captain with Barrett.
"We think we can put together a top five finish. Any thing higher is a bonus."
Hales said Skenes and Barrett were selected captains because of the example they set for the rest of the team.
"(Barrett and Skenes) are the kind of captains that every coach hopes for," she said.
"They know the ins and outs of the team, what everyone's times are, and what lineup will serve the team best, but they also respect the coach's decisions as well."
Hauff said all four relay members see themselves as equals and believes the team can swim fast in the Westminster of Atlanta pool at the state finals Feb. 12.
"I don't know if it is adrenaline or the pool, but we always swim fast at Westminster," Hauff said. "There is definitely such a thing as a fast pool. Cold water and steady depth can create really fast times."
Regardless of how the team finishes at the state meet, the swimmers have plans for the future.
Skenes will attend Georgia Tech to major in mechanical engineering and hopes to make the swim team. Hauff is headed to Georgia. Barrett will swim at Johns Hopkins and Banks is still looking for a school.
"All four of these young men are exceptional athletes and just great kids all-around who have left their mark on the Lakeside Swimming Program through their incredible devotion to this team," Hales said.
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