News 12 at 6 o'clock, June 21, 2008
COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga.---It's a swim meet designed to help kids gain confidence, but this year, it has new meaning. It's now named after a young woman who died in a tragic accident in February.
Kids at the Petersburg Racquet Club jumped into fun in the water. That's the main point of one particular swim meet.
But this year, there's so much more to it than that.
"This meet is in honor of her, as many young swimmers looked up to her," said J.J. Hynes, president of the swim team at the club.
He's talking about Melissa Eustice, who swam at the club since she was ten.
A car accident took her life in February, when she was just twenty years old.
"It was like reliving a horror story, the first time we heard about this, because her best friend and roommate were both killed in the accident, too," said Melissa's father, Gil Eustice.
Melissa was very involved in swimming, she even coached at the club for four years.
"Melissa just had a smile on her face all the time. The kids would come up to her and they adored her," said Hynes.
And organizers say this is exactly the type of meet they'd want to honor her with. It's for developing swimmers who haven't placed first through third at any meet this year. For them, getting awards at the meet helps boost their confidence.
And another tribute to Melissa comes through a splash of color. Since pink was her favorite they asked people to wear it, they decorated with it, and even ordered special pink backstroke flags.
"She was a great role model and she'd turned out to be this beautiful woman," said her father.
That beauty is something family members think of often. Her dad says he remembers her daily and is still coping with the loss.
"The circle of life continues, you know. We love every moment that we spent with her, and think fondly of that, every time we think of that," he said.
The meet has been around nearly twenty years and will now be named Melissa's Meet for good.
Columbia County also declared the day "Melissa Eustice Day."