The following is a sports profile written by GSPA Student Advisory Board member Cassidy Hettesheimer. The story will be published in the Mill Creek High School Accipiter Yearbook., where she serves co-editor.
If you watch a video of Jake Magahey’s, 11, record-breaking race in the 500 freestyle at this year’s Georgia high school swim state championships—or, if you were there at Georgia Tech and had the privilege to watch athletic history being made—you can easily see that Magahey is more than a lap ahead of the second place swimmer. Spectators cheer, even those not from Mill Creek, for they know that Magahey is about to break the longest-standing record in the books for boys’ public high school swim: a record set in 1983 and broken as soon as Magahey’s hands touched the pool wall at the end of his 20th lap.
Magahey swam a time of 4:15.63, versus Je" Kosto"’s record of 4:16.39 set more than three decades prior. Magahey had come close to breaking the national record at last year’s state meet, only a half-second to "Kosto"’s time.
“Breaking the national record was definitely a goal, ever since last year,” Magahey said. “After breaking it, it was a pretty emotional moment just because of a year of hard work—well it wasn’t just a year. It was the accumulation of all the years of hard work that kind of paid off into that, so it was definitely a big moment for me. It was probably the biggest moment of my career so far, I would say.”
However, Magahey had actually swam a time faster than the record-4:14.61- at the Speedo Winter Junior East Championships in December, hosted in Greensboro, North Carolina. These high-level, out-of-town competitions are familiar to Magahey, who has also been to San Antonio, Tennessee, and Irvine, California to swim, as well as the island archipelago of Fiji, located in the South Paci#c, for the 2018 Junior Pan- Pacific championships.
“Fiji was just an amazing experience because I’ve never been somewhere that far, and it was a lot different than America. And, it’s a lot different from what people would expect it to be too, because when you think of Fiji, you probably think it’s going to be this luxurious, rich island. But, in reality, it’s a lot more cultured than that. You kind of go there, and at first you’re—I don’t want to say disappointed—but you’re just surprised at what it actually is. Then, after the first day or two, you grow to love it. I think Fiji’s awesome, and all the people there are awesome.”
At the Junior Pan-Pacific Championships, Magahey swam against competitors from New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Fiji, Singapore, Ecuador, Canada, China, and the United States. The swimmers’ time together is fast—just their swimming—but Magahey did get to trade conversations, as well as caps, with a few competitors.
“I didn’t really get to know anybody from another country. I did get to trade one of my swim caps with a Japanese swimmer for one of her Japan hats, and I still have that. I talked to a couple of Australian guys the last night, I remember, but I didn’t get to really know them. Still, it was a great experience to swim against and meet so many new people.”
Overall, the United States dominated the four-day competition, winning 27 of the 35 available gold medals. Magahey placed second in the 200-meter freestyle and third in the 800-meter freestyle. He was also a member of the team that placed first in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay.
“We were there for 11 days total,” Magahey said. “On the last day, after the meet, when we were traveling back, it was a three-hour drive from the airport to where the competition was, and we pretty much drove through the entire main island of Fiji. It was a coastal drive too, so that was pretty cool. And then, we went to a beach on the last day, so that was pretty cool too.”
Of course, the swimmers at these championships—including Magahey himself—must swim times fast enough times to qualify for their events, and that requires hours of high-intensity practice. Magahey practices for over two hours each day at Swim Atlanta on Sugarloaf after helping out around the swim facility for his Work Study class credit. However, he wasn’t always certain that state records and trips to Fiji were in his swim future.
“I started swimming when I was four, but not seriously until I was about eight. For those first couple of years, between when I was eight and when I was around 12 or 13, I didn’t like it very much. I just did it kind of because my sister did it,” Magahey said. “One day, I realized that my time swimming would be a lot better spent if I actually cared about what I was doing than if I didn’t care at all. So, I started actually caring about it, and I’ve been improving since that change. I would say, when I was around 13, I won my first state title, and I realized I could go somewhere with this. The improvement I’ve made since then has been crazy.“
So, how does Magahey do it all? Is it the guidance and inspiration of coaches Chris Davis, Sr, and Rick Creed, FA? Is it the two hours—at least—of practice each day? Is it growing up watching Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte swim, or is it the support of everyone around him because, as Magahey put it, “I would go as far to say almost everybody in my life motivates me to do what I do?”
Yes, Magahey says—it is all of those things, as well as a strong mindset.
“I just want to be the best I can be. That’s my main motivator. I want to try to give everything 100 percent, try to be the best person and the best swimmer I can be, and I apply that to every practice. I work as hard as I can every practice, and I think a big part of my success is that.” A similar mindset, Magahey said, applies to whatever he does outside of the pool as well. “I do get to relax [outside of swim]. I mean, I get a decent amount of time off. So, I just try to keep myself busy. When I can relax, I give myself time to relax, but I try to hang out with friends and keep myself busy, but also give myself time to recharge,” Magahey said. “I want to try to be successful. Swimming, as a sport, is difficult unless you’re really, really successful—which I mean, hopefully I will be—but I know I’ve got to have a back-up plan. I don’t know what I want to do, but I want to do something where I love doing it, and I’m successful. And, I mean, success is relative. I’m not saying I want to be like a millionaire, but as long as I love it, and as long as I can live, I’ll be happy.”
As for what future accomplishments will help bring about his picture of success in the pool, Magahey has a few goals.
“Everybody wants to make the Olympics, of course, but I try to set goals as realistically as possible, as a progression thing, and so this summer, I’m trying to make the Junior World’s team for the US. Probably next year, for high school, I want to break the 200 free state record.”
A spot on the Junior World’s team for the United States could bring Magahey to Budapest, Hungary. A 200-meter freestyle state record could mean more history made at Georgia Tech and another record in the books, right next to his 500-meter freestyle victory.