In the four meets in which the Lakeside High School swim team has competed since Jan. 5, the Panthers have taken first place in every competition.
In Saturday's annual Panther-Pack Invitational at the Augusta Aquatics Center, Lakeside won the event once again but did it the hard way.
"We're missing about 15 swimmers," Lakeside swim coach Sonja Bowling said. "Most of them are sick, but everything went smoothly."
In the competition's 24 events, Lakeside won only one - the boy's 400 freestyle relay. In a competition with 19 high schools and 470 swimmers, however, Lakeside's numerous second- to 12th-place finishes were enough to claim first place.
The Panthers took the top spot with 712 total points, while Starr's Mill of Fayetteville, Ga., took second place. Greenbrier High School claimed the third spot with 598 points, while Evans High finished fifth with 410 points.
"It's good to have a big meet like this," Greenbrier swim coach Carolyn Martindale said. "It gets the kids' endurance up."
The Evans Knights took first place in eight events, including two individual wins each from junior Martin Kata and freshman Josh Andrews. Kata's first-place time of 1:44.41 in the boy's 200-yard freestyle beat the rest of the field by more than 13 seconds.
"I look at dropping my time as much as possible more than what place I get, but I was also trying to get points for my team," Kata said.
For both Evans and Lakeside, most of their top swimmers have already earned a trip to the state competition by beating a state qualifier time set before the season.
For the Greenbrier Wolfpack, however, Saturday's meet was the perfect setting for state qualification.
Four Wolfpack swimmers joined the ranks of state competitors Saturday, including sophomore Tony Trakowski, junior Katie Croft and seniors Matt Usry and Mary Gunnells.
"They have been pretty close, and they finally got it today," Greenbrier swim coach Brigid Fisher said. "We're hoping to qualify a few more."
Usry, a senior team captain for Greenbrier, took third place in the boy's 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:11.84. Usry said the mark, which beat the state qualifier time by 0.16 seconds, came with some special help.
"I knew it was going to be a long and grueling meet," he said. "This morning I ate two McGriddles sandwiches. That put me over the top."
The Wolfpack, along with the rest of the area swim teams, will have one final chance to qualify for state competition with the annual CSRA Championships Thursday at the Augusta Aquatics Center.
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