When seven teams meet on Thursday at the Columbus Aquatic Center for the region swim meet, much will be as it has been throughout recent memory.
Columbus is favored to win its meet on the girls side to continue its long-standing dominance over other schools around the area, and the Blue Devils boys field a number of talented swimmers, as well.
Unlike recent years, though, another boys team may just have enough to unseat the defending champions.
"Northside looks like a very strong group," Columbus coach Karen Waters said on Tuesday. "I've gone through all the results, trying to figure out the best way we can match up against them. I really don't want to lose."
The last sentence was said with a laugh, but her point was clear: The gap between her Columbus boys, which graduated a host of competitive swimmers from a year ago, and Northside, which returns do-it-all swimmer Jacob Abeyta among a number of others, has shrunk.
Abeyta is the top swimmer for the Patriots and, arguably, the best in the area. He's qualified in nearly every event for state, including two relays, and will have his choice of which events to participate in.
"He has almost all of our school records and he's constantly breaking his own records," Northside coach Casey Deridder said.
Waters said that she's sat down and tried to figure out a way to match her best against Northside's best, which means an inevitable showdown between Abeyta and last year's swimmer of the year, Chase Parker. Parker has qualified in most every event for state, as well.
"I went through and said, you know, if Jacob swims in this event or that event, who do I want up against him," Waters said. "I'm trying to match up my best against him."
But that also poses problems because of the depth on Northside's squad. In addition to Abeyta, five others have qualified for state (Taylor Nielsen, Christian Fontanez, Shae Grover, Gage Brown and Isaiah Parrish).
Deridder said the team is focused on just doing what it has all season, despite the possibility of earning such a momentous victory. With that said, to diminish the significance of the meet for her team would be disingenuous.
"This would definitely mean a lot," she said of the possibility of getting a win. "Especially because I have 10 seniors who have swum all four years for us. They really want it. They want to leave with the win, and they know they can do it."
The meet begins at 5 p.m. and is expected to last until about 7:30 p.m. In addition to Columbus and Northside, Harris County, Hardaway, Shaw, LaGrange and Brookstone will all be present at the meet.