Several local athletes took to the waters Thursday as the swim teams from Lakeside and Greenbrier battled in the first swim meet of 2006.
John S. Davidson Fine Arts School and Cross Creek High School joined the two Columbia County squads at the Augusta Aquatics Center for 24 events in one night.
Of those swimming and diving events, Lakeside took first place 21 times.
"Our main goal is to win," Lakeside swim coach Kristy Shuster said. "We have some strong swimmers and more than half swim year-round."
The Panthers waded past the competition with a first-place finish of 615 points, while the Lady Panthers topped the girls' standings at 614 points. Greenbrier's boys and girls each took second place with 488 and 475 points, respectively.
Greenbrier swim coach Carolyn Martindale and Brigid Fisher said time off from the Christmas break took its toll on the Wolfpack swimmers.
"This is the first meet we've not had a lot of swimmers qualify for state," Martindale said. "The times were a little down."
The Wolfpack's lone winner Thursday was junior Katie Croft. Swimming in the longest event, the 500-yard freestyle, Croft edged out Lakeside's Brandy McCauley by 0.09 seconds for a first-place finish.
"We expected her to do well," Fisher said. "She's a born leader, and she works really hard."
Among the Lakeside winners, freshman Lauren Plowman stood out by qualifying for state competition with a top time of 1:05.73 in the 100-yard backstroke. After beating the required state qualifying time by 0.27 seconds, Plowman has qualified for state competition in six swimming events.
"This is our first time working with her," Shuster said. "For a freshman, we're surprised at how well she's done. We're glad she's going to be with us for the next three years."
Plowman, who has been involved with Greater Augusta Swimming since she was 7 years old, said improving on her best times is more important than getting first place.
"I don't care about the placement as much as I do about my times," Plowman said.
"There's a girl at Evans whose IM (Individual Medley) is, like, seven seconds faster than mine. I want to beat her," she said.
Plowman will get that chance this week when Lakeside returns to the Augusta Aquatics Center to face Evans High School for the first time this year.
"We've always beat them, but they are coming in strong this year," Lakeside swim coach Sonja Bowling said.
The swim meet, Lakeside's fifth of the year, will take place Thursday beginning at 6 p.m.
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