Boardman swimmer Ryan Bailey has first place on his mind as his varsity career winds down
By Joe Scalzo
The Beeghly Center Natatorium has an Olympic-sized swimming pool that’s long enough to hold 10 lanes, deep enough to accommodate a 10-meter diving platform. The facility is big enough to seat 800 fans on the east side, provided everyone loves each other.
So, yeah, you can fit an elephant in that room.
You’ve just got to be careful when you talk about it.
After finishing in the top five in Ohio in each of the past two years, Boardman senior swimmer Ryan Bailey enters this weekend’s Division I state swimming meet at Canton’s C.T. Branin Natatorium with the fastest time in the 100-yard butterfly by more than a second — 49.32 to 50.51.
In fact, his 1.19-second advantage over Cincinnati Moeller junior Greg Nymberg is bigger than the gap between Nymberg and the 17th-fastest swimmer in the race.
Considering last year’s state championship time was 49.62, and considering Bailey should be even faster this weekend after he tapers (i.e. cuts back on his training), shaves off his body hair (don’t worry; all swimmers do this) and gets into his high-tech swimsuit, he should finish Saturday’s meet with a gold medal around his neck.
“We think he’s got a pretty good chance of getting a state championship for Boardman,” said his coach, Terry O’Halloran, whose son Tyler was the last Spartan to win a state swimming title, in 2003. “He’s a man on a mission, so hopefully that pays off.”
But here’s the thing: Just like you don’t want to talk to a pitcher about a no-hitter when he’s running out for the ninth inning, you don’t want to ask Bailey about winning a state title. Because last year, he gave up a hit.
Bailey swam a blistering 49.28 in last year’s Division I preliminaries, only to go out too slowly on his opening split in the finals. He ended up third with a time of 49.92. Dublin Jerome senior Jake Moore was first in 49.62.
“Last year, he tightened up, and it cost him on the last lap,” O’Halloran said. “The critical thing about butterfly, and probably even more in the breaststroke, is the tighter you are, the less chance you have to swim fast.
“It’s a flowing, rhythmical stroke and if you’re not loose in the water and relaxed, it’s difficult to swim fast. You can get away with it in freestyle, and sometimes backstroke, but not with butterfly.”
Bailey said he believes he focused too much on the other swimmers and not enough on himself. (“I can’t control what everybody else is doing,” he said.) But after living with the disappointment for 12 months, and improving his finishes during his offseason training, he thinks he’s ready.
“Honestly, I think the most nerve-wracking meet is districts,” he said. “I think once I’m there [in Canton] and get into my routine, I’ll be fine.”
A 4.0 student, Bailey will attend the Naval Academy next year. His grandfather was in the Marines and even though his father wasn’t in the military, the idea intrigued Bailey. He first took an unofficial visit to the Annapolis, Md., campus and followed up with an official one last summer.
“I’ve always found that [the military] to be a pretty admirable thing to do,” said Bailey, who got recommendations from Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson. “I visited and I really loved it there.
“After that, I let them know I was coming.”
But first, he has unfinished business.
“Obviously my goal is to go out and do what I didn’t do last year,” Bailey said. “That’s what I’ve been working for over the last year, this meet.”