Thirty-five years ago, with no reporters in the stands and few spectators on hand, three seniors and one freshman quietly set the first national record ever for Peddie Swimming. The 1979 Boys’ 200 Medley Relay, comprised of Scott Sawyer ’79 (backstroke), Jim Wong ’82 (breaststroke), Mike Smith ’79 (butterfly), and Ed Bahan ’79 (freestyle) emerged from the qualifying heats as the fastest prep school medley in the nation in a blistering 1:36.065.
It should have been no surprise to the team or Coach Jeff Lowe that the relay had this kind of speed when considering that all four were All-Americans. According to Lowe, “I expected them to be right up in the top two or three, but to set a national record, I just didn’t think we were ready. This is one of the most competitive meets in the country.”
The only members of the fabled “Bald Squad” to keep their locks intact, the quartet entered their heat at the Eastern Interscholastic Swimming Competition with high hopes and moderate expectations. According to Smith, “We knew they weren’t looking for us, so we figured we could go out and surprise them. We never thought we’d ever get near the record.” Not only did this quartet set the national prep record, they set the bar for the future dynasty Peddie Swimming would enjoy.
This pattern of bar-setting continued throughout their college careers and beyond. Wong, captain and four year All-American at Peddie, was also four-year First Team All-American at Tufts University in multiple individual and relay events setting multiple records that have only recently been broken. Bahan competed in the 1980 Olympic Trials and in 1982 was ranked 21st in the world in the 50 free. He has been named Coach of the Year five times at the University of Pittsburgh–Bradford. Sawyer was voted best athlete at Peddie his senior year. He was a consistent record breaker and twice voted MVP by his teammates as he helped lead Boston University from a sleepy swim team to a competitive Division I program. Smith was an All-American swimmer and captain for Princeton University and still rises each morning at 5:30 a.m. to swim laps before heading to work as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard.
The 1979 Boys’ 200 Medley Relay made quite a splash 35 years ago. It is a privilege to induct them into the Peddie Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2014.