As a freshman, Brandon Smith saw a future in which he could set every Erskine Academy individual boys swimming record.
This winter, as a senior, Smith went out and did it.
Smith broke all eight individual school records, and was also part of the 400-yard freestyle relay team that set a new school record. That makes Smith the choice for Morning Sentinel Boys Swimmer of the Year. Waterville’s Ben Wehry and Lawrence’s Alex Bevier were also considered.
“It’s not something that came easy for him,” Erskine coach Susan Burke said. “He had to work for it. He didn’t just beat some of them. He knocked off some seconds.”
Smith said he has been swimming for about 10 years with the Mid-Maine Dolphins.
“I was never too, too serious,” he said. “It was more of a social thing until sophomore year. I was home-schooled until I was a freshman, so it was a great outlet.”
As a freshman, Smith was swimming for Erskine and the Dolphins. He made the decision to take two years off from high school swimming to get more competitive practices with the Dolphins.
“I got a chance to look at the Erskine records,” Smith said. “I thought as though they were reachable for me, but not if I continued high school (swimming). Freshman year, seeing the records and realizing that I had a chance, is what pushed me to be serious about swimming. The chance to do that was what I worked for for two years, and fortunately, it paid off.”
But, as Burke said, it wasn’t easy. This was especially true with Smith’s attempt to set Erskine’s 100 freestyle record.
“At least for the last couple years, I always considered the 100 freestyle to be my race,” Smith said. “The record for that was pretty good. I think it was a 52.43. Trying to get it throughout the high school meets this season, I consistently failed. The closest I came was a 53-mid.”
Heading into the state meet, Smith still hadn’t broken the school records in the 100 free and the 50 free. He also wasn’t thrilled with his record in the 100 butterfly, because it was slower than his personal best.
So Smith decided he’d swim the 100 fly at states and also compete on the 200 free and 400 free relay teams, hoping his leg of those relays would be good enough for a new mark.
The plan worked. Smith swam a 51.71 in the 100 free, and set records in the other two events.
“That was absolute, last-minute end of the meet,” Smith said. “Finals were canceled that meet because of the weather, so it was my last high school meet.”
While Smith had been planning to set individual records for three years, Burke was most impressed with how humble he is, and how willing he was to help his teammates, especially those on the relay team.
“He shared his knowledge,” Burke said. “He shared his ability. He really got the other swimmers excited. He wasn’t focused on just his ability.”
Burke said the 200 free relay team would have placed seventh at states, but one swimmer left a little early, so Erskine was disqualified. The 400 free relay team set a school record at states.
This weekend, Smith will compete in the New England YMCAs. He’s applied to five colleges — all of them have a swim team — but he’s not focused about swimming at a particular level. He’s been accepted to Bryant University, for example, but was unaware the Bulldogs are Division I.
For her part, Burke doesn’t believe Smith would be reaching by trying to swim at the Division I level.
“I think he could do Division I,” Burke said. “That would be a challenge, definitely. And he’s one that likes challenges.”