Each year, Columbus High swim coach Karen Waters tries to see her program move another step forward.
Already, it is the most successful program in Columbus, and this year it sent 11 swimmers to the state competition, six girls and five boys.
Led on the boys side by junior Jorge Orderique and on the girls by junior Lauren Crane, the Blue Devils continued their progress this season to sweep the top awards for All-Bi-City.
Orderique and Crane both won every event they competed in at the city swim championships and competed in three and four state events, respectively.
For their efforts, they have been named the boys and girls swimmers of the year, while Waters earned the nod as coach of the year.
"The biggest thing is the new facility," Waters said,
crediting some of the team's success to the city natatorium on Macon Road. "It just gave us space and the opportunity to grow. The team is just such a team. You think throwing 25 girls and 25 boys together there would be a lot of drama, but there's not. They get along and support each other."
Despite how much time they spend together.
Orderique and Crane both, along with many other swimmers in the area, spend as many as seven hours at the pool on some days. They'll swim for a couple hours in the morning, then a couple more with the Hurricanes club team and then join up with the high school practice after that.
It's a major commitment that has paid dividends for both the swimmers and the team.
"As soon as I hit ninth grade, I saw that in order to improve enough, you have to add more practice time," Orderique said. "That's the only way to get faster. It all just added up and eventually -- it's kind of like a drug. You get addicted to the success. I can't lie and say I wake up every morning excited about practice. You just remind yourself of your goal. I want a scholarship for college. I have one more year to go, and I just have to love what I do."
Orderique, who started swimming competitively in sixth grade, said he's hoping to improve his times, which have already gone down since state, during his senior year and earn a Division-I scholarship.
Crane is in a similar position.
She nearly qualified for the finals at state this year and has already improved her times since the competition. The goal is to continue to improve those numbers and make the finals in her senior season.
"I'm starting to look into college swimming," she said. "I'm looking to get my 200 free to 1:55. That'd be a good goal."
That time was 2:01 at state, a personal record at the time, and she said she's already gotten it down to 1:59.05 since then.
"Hopefully, that'll get me into the finals next year," she said.
That's the goal for everyone, Waters said.
Columbus has consistently qualified swimmers for the state competition. Now, the next step is to get some into the finals and begin rising up the ranks on the state level.
"We accomplished most of our goals," she said of this past season.
"We did well everywhere we went. We had more swimmers at state than ever before. The next step, now, is to get someone back into the finals at state."
That will take continued commitment from all the swimmers and coaches, but that hasn't been a problem so far.