Stephen Bandy wanted a personal best.
And when the Faith Christian School junior stepped onto the starting blocks during Monday’s NCISAA Division III state swim meet at Greensboro Aquatic Center, Bandy had no clue that he would need a personal best to touch the wall first.
“I knew it would be close,” Bandy said, “but I didn’t realize the people on either side of me would be that fast.”
Bandy, swimming the 100-yard freestyle, touched the wall in 48.43 seconds. His time was good enough for a personal best, and he required every bit of that swim to secure first place and a state championship.
Bandy entered the event with the top seed time, and was the only athlete to have a sub-50 second time. Bandy knew that the rest of the field would be coming after him, and he expected his opponents to drop time, too. Just how much time, he wasn’t sure.
Turns out, the field dropped plenty. The top three swimmers in the event were separated by .4 seconds, with the second-place swimmer touching the wall just .23 seconds behind Bandy.
“I was very nervous because I was going in with the top seed,” Bandy said. “I knew they would be coming. And during the race, that last lap I was dying pretty hard. I knew I had to put my head down and go that last lap. I ended up out-touching them at the end.
“After the first 50 (yards) they were keeping up with me and I didn’t want to lose as the top seed. So the first 50 I had the lead, then my last (turn) wasn’t as good so they caught up a little bit. I saw them at the end and they were getting close so I knew I had to go.”
Bandy said he didn’t breathe for the last half of the final lap, which helped put him in position to reach the wall first. In swimming, an extra breath or an extra half-stroke near the wall can be the difference between a state title and a third-place finish.
The FCS swimmer has been swimming with a club team in Cary this season out of Triangle Aquatic Center. He said that the competition among teammates, as well as dedicated sets that aim to train different portions of his races have helped him improve.
On Monday, after having a lead in the first half of the race, Bandy needed to rely on his training to pull out a strong second-half to hold off the charging field.
“During practice we do a lot of pace sets, and that’s what helped me there,” he said. “So at the end I just put my head down and didn’t take any more breaths. At first, the guy to the left of me, I thought he won. It was so close, just like .2 seconds apart, but I got my hand in there. I was just so happy.”
Bandy also competed in the 100 backstroke and a pair of relay events. He finished third (55.74) in the backstroke, and shaved more than two seconds off his seed time to post another best. Former FCS teammate and current Friendship Christian School swimmer Brandon Miller won the event (52.37).