The cars spilled out of the parking lot at Petersburg Racquet Club, and at the swimming pool, people painted the deck pink.
Almost 180 swimmers from the CSRA Swim League competed in the inaugural Melissa Eustice Memorial Invitational on Saturday. An estimated 400 watched from the deck, many of them clad in pink in memory of Melissa, a 2005 graduate of Lakeside High School who died in a Feb. 10 car accident.
Most expressed a similar sentiment: Melissa would have loved this.
"It's a great representation of everything she loved," said Melissa's sister, Megan. "Out of everything, this would have been her favorite event."
The Invitational was formerly known as the B-Meet, where all swimmers 10 years old and younger who hadn't finished in the top three spots in an event could compete. Melissa competed in the event growing up and later served as an assistant coach at Petersburg Racquet Club.
Columbia County Commissioner Tommy Mercer proclaimed June 21 "Melissa Kristen Eustice Day" during a ceremony before the meet.
"She was a positive role model for the kids in the swim league," Mercer said. "I think it went outside the swim league, too. She carried a positive attitude her whole life."
Swimmers, friends and parents wore temporary "MKE" tattoos, which Petersburg Racquet Club Vice President Mark Pakradooni said were provided free once he told the story behind them. The staff shirts bore the initials on the sleeve, provided free from Augusta Swim Supply.
"They said, 'Look, we knew Melissa, too,' " Pakradooni said.
It seemed everyone in attendance knew Melissa, who was a student at Georgia Southern.
Megan started a Facebook event and invited everyone she knew to "The Melissa Meet." There were 103 confirmed guests as of the day of the meet. Many of Melissa's Kappa Delta sorority sisters were in attendance, as well as some of Melissa's friends from high school.
"It just says a lot about the type of person she was," said Lindsey Thomason, who graduated from Lakeside High School with Melissa. "It's eight o'clock in the morning and look how many people are here."
Melissa's father, Gil Eustice, who retired as CSRA Swim League president when his daughters both left for Georgia Southern, spoke to the crowd before the meet and spent the remaining time accepting hugs and catching up with old friends.
He said Melissa enjoyed working the B-Meet because it helped give the beginners confidence off the block and with their stroke. As an example, he pointed out a young swimmer exiting the pool after competing with a shirt on and said next year he'll know better.
"She would have been proud," he said. "This is the kind of thing she loved to see."
In addition to the tattoos, many swimmers had "I love Melissa Eustice" written on their backs and arms. There were pink swimsuits, caps and balloons.
"She loved the swim kids, and they loved her," Gil said. "She was like a magnet to those kids."
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