Behind the trophies: what goes into being a teen state champ

Swimmer, volleyball player, robotics team explain their journeys to the titles

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It’s 5:00 a.m.

Most of the community is in bed catching Zs, while Aiken High School junior Steven Kekacs heads to the swimming pool to swim an average five miles.

"When I wake up in the morning I don't really want to follow through with it, but after a while of moving around, I think about how much better I'll be after finishing," Kekacs said.

Kekacs is the 2009 and 2010 state champion in the 500 freestyle swim event, and he is the 2010 200 freestyle swim champion. That's right, Kekacs sports a title that few flaunt -- double champion.

Some athletes aren't concerned with the outcome -- they rather focus on giving 100 percent; while other players view winning as the most important part of competition. Either way, competing with a purpose consists of sweat, blood, scars, bruises, headaches, ambiguity, short-term and long-term goals.

This year' s South Carolina Volleyball State Champion Aiken High Hornets celebrated a long season of hard work ending with a 35-1 record. On paper, the record may make one think the season was a breeze that the team won easily. Not so. Aiken High junior Meredith Clemmens missed some action during the state championship game due to an illness and major leg cramps.

"I couldn't walk anymore. They massaged my legs, I couldn't feel them as I went back in because they hurt so terribly. We won the fourth game, so between the fourth and fifth games I sat on the bench and threw up because I drank six Gatorades and I started the fifth game and stayed with awful leg cramps," Clemmens said.

"But, it was definitely worth coming back into the game and finishing, I don't really remember it all, but I would do it again, hopefully without the leg cramps," Clemmens said.

During the journey to win, doubt and fatigue creeps in. Instead of being first in every sprint the basketball player slips to last, instead of diving on the ground to dig the ball, a volleyball player misses the play, instead of running for a few more yards on a first down, the football player may be a few yards short.

When competing in robotics, the team captain had to persevere through almost intolerable headaches. When asked his motive, he said his perseverance as an example of a "big enough ‘why’.” A big enough why is a goal that one sets and finds time-worthy to attack and accomplish.

For Aiken county's robotics team, G-Force, the goal was to put an all out effort into their robot. Their hundreds of hours in the laboratory won them the State Championship Title and the World Championship Title.

"The most hours were put into tweaking at the end, and the little things that don't fit together or do what you want it to do. But, it was all worth it because it goes to show you a little team from Aiken can go all the way," Aiken High senior Casey Izard said.

According to Kekacs, Izard, and Clemmens, whether winning grants a player bragging rights or gives them a warm feeling inside, it is still special in the future.

Teen Board Member Myson Jones is a senior at Aiken High School

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