Stephen Bandy has a state swimming championship to his name. Now, he’s found a college where he can continue his career after his final year of high school.
Bandy, a Faith Christian School senior, verbally committed to Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk. He will be a freshman there during the 2021-22 season, and will be part of the Class of 2025.
“I just loved the team vibe,” Bandy said of his decision. “I come from a smaller high school, so I was looking for a college that had smaller enrollment, too.”
Lees-McRae had an enrollment just shy of 1,000 undergrad students for the 2018-19 school year. The college is situated 3,720 feet above sea level, and the mountainous location was too good to pass up.
“I liked the outdoor vibe there,” Bandy said. “I like the idea of being able to chill in the mountains. I just like the outdoors. I hunt, fish, really anything.”
Bandy won a state championship in the 100-yard freestyle last season during the NCISAA Division III state swim meet in Greensboro. Bandy’s time of 48.43 seconds was a personal best.
He had entered the race as the only swimmer to touch the wall under 50 seconds in the prelim races, but needed to fend off a pair of competitors in the finals to secure his first title. 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.
Bandy also finished third at state in the 100 backstroke. He was honored with a state championship ring by FCS during a ceremony this summer. He is the first Patriots athlete to be awarded a championship ring as an individual.
He chose to continue swimming in college because he loves the competition that the sport brings. Racing others, as well as the clock, is what has motivated Bandy to dump plenty of effort into the sport.
“I just love competing,” he said. “It’s probably the best part.”
Bandy has been training with his club team Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary throughout the summer, even though he isn’t certain that a high school season will be held. He is swimming six days per week, and has even competed in several intrasquad meets.
“I had an idea I wanted to swim in college when I started but I wasn’t all the way sure,” Bandy said. “But I put in a lot of work and effort and it just seemed like the right decision.”