The pressure of being the top seed for two straight years in the Division I boys 100 butterfly race finally burst for Boardman senior Ryan Bailey.
In Saturday’s race at the C.T. Branin Natatorium, Bailey won the state title with a time of 49.43, becoming Boardman’s first state swimming champion in 10 years.
Despite a strong start, the finish was anything but easy. His suit was a little too tight and began restricting his blood flow in his legs during the last half of the race. The restriction didn’t stop Bailey from finishing more than three-tenths of a second ahead of Cincinnati St. Xavier’s Ian Wooley.
Bailey called the feeling of seeing his victory confirmed on the scoreboard as “really indescribable.”
“I looked up to the stands for my dad, my mom and family, and the coaches,” Bailey said. “It’s just best thing I ever experienced — happiness and accomplishment and pride all mixed together.”
Then he added, “Relief also. I wanted to get this done — it’s been my life’s biggest goal.”
Last year, Bailey also was seeded first but finished third. This time, he shook off the unexpected late pain for his biggest win.
“I don’t want to make any excuses,” said Bailey, who also finished fourth in the 100 breaststroke, breaking the school record that he set on Friday. Yes, he changed into another suit for that race.
Bailey’s split time in the butterfly was his best ever, Boardman coach Terry O’Halloran said.
“We had a very good feeling,” O’Halloran said of the start. “But in that last lap, he really had to struggle to stay in front as the field was gaining.
“He just muscled it out,” O’Halloran said, calling the finish “a nail-biter. His determination to win was fantastic.”
Boardman’s last state champion was O’Halloran’s son Tyler, who won two titles in 2003 and another in 2002.
“The greatest advantage I had was the experience that Coach O has,” Bailey said. “What he brings to the table really helps.”