But swimming is also a race against the clock -- a race against yourself. Luke Smith, Jesse Elkins, Walter Chiarella and Jay Guffey had the chance to swim their relays faster than they ever had before.
The foursome swam a 1:30.96 in the 200 free relay, dropping nearly a half second and moving up three places to 27th. In the 400 free relay, they were even more impressive, as each man swam his season-best split to cut almost two seconds for a 3:21.65.
"All those guys have come a long way in their relay sprinting. To cut off half a second in the 200 relay and almost two full seconds in the 400 relay tells me that my guys weren't intimidated; they were excited. They were ready to be at their best at the biggest meet in Indiana, the biggest meet of their lives," Greencastle coach Luke Beasley said.
The coach has spoken in the past about wanting to get the program to a place where the state meet, not the sectional, is the goal for the season. Friday's performances may be a sign the program is a step closer.
"The funny thing about this year is, we thought we had to be at our best at sectionals just to get here, and this shows that we actually had a little left in the tank," Beasley said. "You didn't see our best on Saturday at sectional. You saw it today.
"Our psychology wasn't really peak for the state meet, it was peak for the sectional, but it worked out," he added. "The guys know that they can do it. I think it's only going to help us down the road to know that we can do our best here."
This knowledge will be especially useful for juniors Elkins, Chiarella and Guffey, who have a chance to be back next year. For Smith, Friday was a his chance to finish his senior season on a high note.
"We knew that Luke would be there on sectional Saturday when we needed him, and we knew that he'd be here today," Beasley said. "He had his best split of the season in the 400 freestyle relay. He wasn't happy with his 200 freestyle leadoff; he wanted to break 23. But, still, he's a fast kid. He did his job."
For his part, Smith is grateful to his teammates and coach for helping him finish at state.
"It's an honor to be here. I couldn't have done it without Beasley's help. He's been a great coach," Smith said. "I have to thank all my teammates because I couldn't have done this without them. They're a great team. It's an honor to be here."
Smith's 50.22 split in the 400 relay, along with the 51.07 posted by Elkins, were the legs of the race Beasley gave particular credit to in dropping so much time. At the same time, Elkins knows he has better times in him and looks forward to returning as a senior.
"I did better last year. I think I plateaued a little bit, but I think you need that to improve," Elkins said. "I think I'll come back next year pretty fierce. I'm pretty excited."
Guffey anchored each of the relays and did his job each time, turning in the low split time. The impressive part of this is the junior did not compete in a meet until January's WCC championship.
"Jay Guffey coming back -- he made a lot of this possible with his splits. He came back in top shape. He was great," teammate Smith said.
Typical of this group, Guffey had little to say about his own performance, focusing instead on his teammates -- even those who didn't touch the water Friday.
"We have a few of the alternates who have never been here before, so that was good for them," Guffey said. "It's just a great experience. I think it teaches us a lot about everything in life."
In the 200 relay, the coach made special note to the times of Chiarella's 22.95 split. Swimming his season-best split in each relay was a nice introduction to the IUPUI Natatorium.
"I was told by one sectional coach last week that Walter has to get a lot strong before he can split a 22. Apparently not. Apparently he's strong enough," Beasley said.
"I think the main thing for us was just to get some experience, especially for me, this was my first time," Chiarella said. "It's a great honor to swim with these guys. These are my favorite guys in the world.
"That 1:30 and the 3:21 showed that we can do great things," he added.
While Beasley agreed with his swimmer, he knows Smith leaves a big space to fill.
"While we have three very fast kids coming back, replacing Luke is not going to be the easiest thing," he said. "We're going to need guys like Mitchell Ball and Cody Watson to take it on them to step up and move into that spot for us.
"It's thrilling to see them do as well as they did," he continued. "It's been a blast working with them, and I can't wait to get back and get started working with them next year. They're going to be a fun group. They're a hungry group, and they know that they haven't gotten close to their potential yet."
At IUPUI Natatorium
IHSAA Boys' State Finals
200 Freestyle Relay -- 27. Greencastle (Smith, Elkins, Chiarella, Guffey) 1:30.96
400 Freestyle Relay -- 30. Greencastle (Chiarella, Elkins, Smith, Guffey) 3:21.65