Adam Byars usually tells his swimmers to try to focus more on what they can control rather than their competition.
The director of Aiken-Augusta Swim League sensed something different in Eric Chiu during the Feb. 9 high school state swim meet in Atlanta.
"He was really set on wanting to be a state champion," Byars said.
Chiu, a junior at Lakeside High School, met his goal in the 100-yard breaststroke, setting a school record with a time of 58.50 seconds. He also set a school record on the way to a second-place finish in the 200-yard individual medley, with a 1:54.85 finish.
Chiu also was part of a 200-yard medley relay team that finished second with a time of 1:39.34.
The team broke a school record it set the night before during qualifying.
Chiu swims with the ASL six days a week for more than two hours a day. It's a regimen he has kept since 2000. Byars, who has worked with Chiu during the past year, said he was more prepared mentally before the state meet than he'd been in the past.
"He had a little bit more confidence and brought that, and I think that's a big reason he had a lot of success," Byars said.
Chiu led the 100-yard breast from start to finish, although he didn't realize it at the time.
After watching the tape, he saw that Westminster swimmer Zack Rabin trailed him the length of the race.
"I actually surprised myself at state," Chiu said. "I didn't think that I would get any best times."
Next for Chiu is a March trip to Orlando, Fla., to compete in the 18-and-under nationals. The competition at the national events is familiar to Chiu, who sees many of the same swimmers at other meets.
He'll see some of the same faces there when he competed in the event last year, as well as those from the Southern Zone Swimming Championship in Houston.
"I just want to do my best," Chiu said.
The 17-year-old seems to have hit his stride after recovering from a minor rotator cuff injury in January. Byars said his pupil could improve his upper-body strength and endurance, but said Chiu had a good feel for the water.
Chiu recently started his college search during his down time. Right now, he's concentrating on schools with the best academics.
It might be a little early for Olympics talk.
"I could take it step by step," he said.
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