In most high school varsity sports, a team has a full season to make its claim on a region finish. That usually means at least five separate games against its region foes, meaning one good or bad performance doesn't completely sink or define the team's season.
That's not the case in swimming.
"We don't do wins and losses throughout the year, so the region meet determines our place," Aiken High head swimming coach Dave Flanders said.
That meet was held Saturday at the USC Aiken Natatorium for Region 5-AAAA, which meant Aiken, South Aiken, North Augusta, Dutch Fork, Lexington and White Knoll came together to decide who the region's top teams were. Lexington won both the boys' and girls' titles, with South Aiken and Aiken finishing second and third for the boys, and North Augusta and Aiken following the Wildcats in order for the girls.
Among the big winners individually was North Augusta's Nicole Fuller. She recorded wins in both the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events, while fellow Yellow Jacket Eric Collins won the boys' 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard breaststroke. South Aiken's Audrey Robinson won the girls' 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard breaststroke.
South Aiken head coach Heather Price has been pleased with the effort she's seen this season, particularly from the T-Breds' relay groups.
"Our relay teams have been phenomenal this year," she said. "Right now, we're looking at, I think, all our relay teams headed to the state meet."
Two of those relay teams, the boys' 200-yard medley and 400-yard freestyle, won their events at Saturday's meet. North Augusta's relay teams won the girls' races.
Flanders added that in other meets, his aquatic competitors have fine-tuned their technique, and while the times from those events could be used to qualify for the state meet on Saturday at the University of South Carolina Natatorium, all their work to this point was focused on the region event.
"The swimmers, they work the entire season just for this meet," he said.
With all that on the line, one might expect the swimmers to feel the pressure of the single crucial event for their season, and Flanders sad that wasn't a bad thing.
"A lot of them are nervous," he said. "They should be nervous; that's good."
One thing that the swimmers didn't have to be nervous about at the region meet was whether or not their times were accurate. For such events, a three-level timing system is in place to ensure precision and reliability in the all-important times.
The first, and preferred, timing device is in the wall of the pool in form of a touchpad. If the swimmer fails to touch the pad or if the touch doesn't register, there is a backup plan. There are timers standing on the edge of the pool, and when they see the swimmers touch the wall, they press a button wired into the same system as the touchpad.
If neither of those methods work properly, the timers have stopwatches as a last resort.
"That way we're sure to get good times," timer Marie Jackson said.
Jackson, who's son Hunter finished third in the 100-yard fly for Aiken, said that she has lots of experience as a timer for swim meets.
"I can't even tell you ... I've done summer league and this for as long as I can remember," she said.
In addition to the automatic qualifiers, several other swimmers had times good enough for consideration in case an automatic qualifier elects not to participate in that event in the state meet. Each swimmer is only allowed two individual events, and they'll be required to declare which events they'll enter by tonight.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.
Area state meet qualifiers
Girls 200-Yard Medley Relay
1, North Augusta 'A' 1:57.00 2, Aiken 'A' 1:58.22 3, South Aiken 'A' 1:59.86.
Boys 200-Yard Medley Relay
1, South Aiken 'A' 1:47.29 2, Aiken 'A' 1:48.24.
Girls 200-Yard Freestyle
1, Fuller, Nicole, North Augusta, 1:58.06 3, Creech, Elizabeth, North Augusta, 2:04.20.
Boys 200-Yard Freestyle
1, Collins, Eric, North Augusta, 1:48.66 2, Freed, Evan, South Aiken, 1:52.68.
Girls 200-Yard IM
1, Robinson, Audrey, South Aiken, 2:18.68.
Boys 200-Yard IM
2, Robinson, Grant, South Aiken, 2:08.02.
Girls 50-Yard Freestyle
1, Williams, Kelsey, North Augusta, 25.27 3, Deal, Abby, Aiken, 25.84 4, Allison, Megan, South Aiken, 25.85.
Boys 50-Yard Freestyle
2, Carroll, Steven, Aiken, 23.54.
Girls 100-Yard Butterfly
1, Deal, Abby, Aiken, 1:02.20 2, Suarez, Mary Pat, Dfhs, 1:04.33 3, Barclay, Lauren, South Aiken, 1:04.49 4, Lewis, Katy, North Augusta, 1:04.69 6, Scott, Lauren, South Aiken, 1:06.12.
Boys 100-Yard Butterfly
2, Freed, Evan, South Aiken, 56.31 3, Jackson, Hunter, Aiken, 58.58.
Girls 100-Yard Freestyle
2, Williams, Kelsey, North Augusta, 54.63.
Boys 100-Yard Freestyle
1, Hang, Thomas, South Aiken, 50.86.
Girls 500-Yard Freestyle
1, Fuller, Nicole, North Augusta, 5:11.68
Boys 500-Yard Freestyle
1, Hang, Thomas, South Aiken, 5:04.47.
Girls 100-Yard Backstroke
1, Allison, Megan, South Aiken, 1:02.08 2, Creech, Elizabeth, North Augusta, 1:05.99 4, Grant, Kailey, Aiken, 1:06.63 5, Schappell, Maggie, Aiken, 1:06.81.
Boys 100-Yard Backstroke1, Robinson, Grant, South Aiken, 57.50 2, Graham, Connor, Dfhs, 58.27.
Girls 100-Yard Breaststroke
1, Robinson, Audrey, South Aiken, 1:10.54 2, Sam, Emily, North Augusta, 1:11.05 4, Colster, Erin, Aiken, 1:14.43 5, Hooper, Cassandra, North Augusta, 1:15.63.
Boys 100-Yard Breaststroke
1, Collins, Eric, North Augusta, 1:00.90 3, Carroll, Steven, Aiken, 1:08.14 4,Grooms, Hunter, Aiken, 1:09.11.
Girls 400-Yard Freestyle Relay
1, North Augusta 'A' 3:47.20 3, Aiken 'A' 3:53.56 4, South Aiken-SC 'A' 3:58.90 .
Boys 400 Yard Freestyle Relay
1, South Aiken-SC 'A' 3:28.12 2, Lexington-SC 'A' 3:28.54 3, North Augusta-SC 'A' 3:37.20 .