Geneva El-Amin knew something was different when her three youngest children showed an early affinity for the pool.
"Ever since they were toddlers, they've always loved the water," said El-Amin, whose three children -- 12-year-old Mujahid, 11-year-old Khayriyyah and 9-year-old Luqman -- are competing in the Georgia Games at the Augusta Aquatics Center. "My three older kids are grown and they never swam, but by the time my younger ones were 6 or 7 years old, I could tell they were going to excel in aquatics."
The El-Amins are from Atlanta, and they take their swimming seriously. Members of the City of Atlanta Dolphins, a team that has 30 members, they practice 2 1/2 hours a day, five days a week.
They're hoping this mission to Augusta will produce a spot for each on the state's zone team -- a squad to which seven members from different age groups will be selected to represent Georgia and compete against teams from across the Southeast.
"They've been working very hard," said El-Amin, whose children attend Clara Mohammed Middle School in southeast Atlanta. "They have to win something in the 100 meters here, then if they go to zones will be determined by a point system."
Already, Mujahid is a lock for the zone squad. Thursday, he broke his own state record by almost two seconds in the 100-meter fly for the 11-12 age group. He also holds the 10-and-under state records in the 100-meter fly, 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter breaststroke and 50-meter backstroke.
Mujahid said he hopes to set records on a bigger stage someday.
"I'd like to go to the Olympics because it's good competition," he said.
The El-Amins have seen bigger crowds before -- they competed in front of more folks at the zone competitions last year in Dallas -- but Mujahid said he likes the competition here because "it makes me go faster."
Tommy Jackson, a coach for the Dolphins, said Mujahid's inner desire separates him from the competition.
"He's one of the better swimmers I've had who swims that fast at an early age," said Jackson, a 24-year coaching veteran. "His brother and sister work pretty hard, too, but they're younger and they've got awhile before they'll be on his level.
"Mujahid has an innate ability, an internal drive that lets him enjoy what he's doing. If you ask him what time he has two days after he swims, he probably couldn't tell you. He's just having a good time, and that's what is important."
Larry Williams can be reached at (706) 823-3645 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.