Midtown: Sports

Former Sanderson swimmers win U.S. Masters title

Sanderson High graduates and former champions Chris Stevenson, Boyd Wilson, Mike Bitzenhofer and Todd Dudley won the U.S. Masters Swimming National Championship in the 200-yard medley relay in the 45 to 49 age group in Greensboro on Saturday, April 28.

The four swimmers had led Sanderson to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A championship in 1982 and each had earned high school All-America honors.

“We had stayed in touch, and we saw the masters championships were going to be right up the road in Greensboro,” Wilson said. “We thought it would be fun. We were glad that nobody hurt his shoulder or was hurt or sick and that we could swim together again.

“Winning was just icing on the cake.”

Stevenson (23.96 in the backstroke), Wilson (30.55 in the breaststroke), Bitzenhofer (25.81 in the butterfly) and Dudley (22.16 in the freestyle) finished in 1:42.48, which was about 3 seconds slower than when they were teenagers.

“Chris is a world record holder in the masters 200 back, and Todd was on the U.S. national team and won a gold medal in the Pan Am Games in 1987,” Wilson said. “We had two studs.”

All four swam in college. Dudley was a standout at N.C. State. Stevenson was the most valuable swimmer in the Atlantic Coast Conference championships while at the University of North Carolina, and Wilson was an All-ACC selection at Clemson. Bitzenhofer swam at UNC-Wilmington.

“I was really surprised we went that fast,” said Dudley, who had trained about once or twice a week during the last four months. “The thing that surprised me most was how competitive we were once we got there. It just all came back.”

Stevenson, who swam for Greece in the 1984 Olympics, is a professor of analytical and environmental chemistry at the University of Richmond. Wilson is a substance abuse counselor in Raleigh. Bitzenhofer is a nurse in the children’s emergency room at Wake Medical Center in Raleigh, and Dudley is in sales at Stryker, a medical technology company in Raleigh.

“I didn’t realize that this was the 30th anniversary until last weekend,” Stevenson said. “This was the race that I was most excited about. I wouldn’t have been so pumped if I didn’t think we could win, but I knew it was a long shot.”