Mill Creek’s 400-yard freestyle relay trailed North Gwinnett by half a pool when Jake Magahey dove in for the final swim of his last Gwinnett County high school championship meet.
Swimmers and coaches on deck for the late January meet watched the race intently, assuming what was likely to come next.
The Mill Creek senior delivered what was expected, quickly erasing that deficit and powering the Hawks to the county title with a time of 3 minutes, 7.70 seconds, nearly two seconds ahead of the runner-up.
It capped another exceptional Gwinnett championship meet for Magahey, who finished his high school career with eight county titles in his eight individual races. The Daily Post’s Boys Swimmer of the Year — for a third straight year — owns all-time county records in the 100, 200 and 500 free races, as well as the 100 butterfly. He also holds the county-meet record in all four of those races, as well as the 200 individual medley.
Gwinnett swimmers get fired up for the county meet, but coaches regularly praised Magahey for his effort at every high school meet.
“(Magahey) goes 100 percent every meet,” North coach Paul Callis said.
That doesn’t surprise his club coach.
“I think it’s because he’s such a team guy,” SwimAtlanta’s Chris Davis said. “I watch him here with our guys. Obviously, he’s an elite-level athlete, your most elite-level athlete at the program, and yet he’s just a regular guy when everybody’s there. I’m sure he’s the same way with the high school kids.”
There have been more prestigious national and international meets in Magahey’s career already, and more are on deck for the Georgia Bulldogs signee, who has a realistic shot at making the U.S. Olympic Team this summer.
But he never backed off on his effort in Mill Creek’s meets, his coaches said.
“It’s a couple of things,” Magahey said of taking each high school meet seriously. “One, I really love to race. I think every opportunity you have to race like that, you’ve got to take it. There were times when I wasn’t feeling my best, but I wouldn’t allow myself to just sand-bag it and only go for the win. I always tried to do 100 percent because that’s an opportunity and it’s always a learning experience. You can learn from a race even at a dual meet where you’re not feeling the best.”
That kind of effort led to some staggering statistics in high school swimming.
He swept the 200 and 500 freestyle state championships for the third straight year, giving him six individual and one relay state title in his career. Despite being sick the week of state, he won the 200 free in a state-record time of 1:34.37, shaving almost a second off the old mark. He won the 500 free by more than 14 seconds in 4:16.47, though it just missed his 2019 state-winning time of 4:15.63, which broke the oldest national high school record, previously set in 1983.
He is a 13-time high school All-American selection with the versatility to dominate multiple races, like he did at the county meet. He won the 100 free in 43.87, a new county and county-meet record, and won the 200 IM in 1:47.07, another county-meet record.
“In my opinion, Jake is the most outstanding male swimmer in the history of Georgia high school swimming,” said veteran Mill Creek coach Rick Creed, whose high school coaching career began in 1981. “(Brookwood grad and three-time Olympian) Amanda Weir is the most outstanding female swimmer in the the history of Georgia high School swimming. We have had many outstanding male swimmers that went on to do great things like Olympians Steve Lundquist (a 1984 double gold medalist), David Larson, (Parkview grad) Eric Shanteau (two-time Olympian who Creed coached), Doug Gjertsen, Gunnar Bentz and Jay Litherland. Jake won six individual state titles, one relay state title, holds two state records, one national record, five Gwinnett County Meet records, seven Mill Creek School records and he won the 500 free the last three years by an average of over 13 seconds, which is approximately the length of the pool.
“No one in my memory has dominated an event like Jake has. He potentially could have won seven of the eight individual events at state (high school swimmers are only permitted to swim two individual events at state). He is the most versatile swimmer that I have ever known. Eric Shanteau was an outstanding IMer and he dominated the 200 IM, but he was not as dominant in the other events. Jake is also the best relay swimmer that I have ever seen. His 42.40 relay split in the 400 free relay is the fastest split I have ever seen in Georgia high school swimming. On top of all of this, he is a 4.0 student, team captain and extremely humble.”
Another high school stat that impresses his coaches — of his 94 high school races, he swam state qualifying times in 90. He is a four-time MVP at Mill Creek, where his leadership has fueled the team throughout his career.
“Incredibly, Jake’s character and support of his teammates far exceeds his amazing swimming ability,” Creed said. “Jake is a natural leader and supports, encourages and challenges his teammates. Jake’s teammates have tremendous respect and admiration for him, not only as a swimmer, but as a person. He is humble, considerate and displays outstanding sportsmanship.”
Magahey had time recently to think about the impact Mill Creek swimming had on his career, sharing his thoughts at the Hawks’ season-ending banquet.
“(Mill Creek swimming) really meant a lot to me,” Magahey said. “It took up a large portion of my life. People don’t realize, even for us club swimmers, we swim every day and we go to meets Saturday nights. When meets start in November, from November to February we have meets every Saturday, every weekend. It’s a big part of our life the entire winter. That’s a lot of time. I’m really glad I was able to spend that time with Mill Creek and Coach Creed.
“Coach Creed is an amazing coach. I couldn’t tell you how many people have come up to me and told me how great of a coach Coach Creed is. I’m a little biased, but I’d say he’s the best coach in Gwinnett County and one of the best high school coaches in the country.”
Magahey has lofty goals for college, but his next big goal is an international one. Assuming COVID-19 doesn’t affect the Olympics, he hopes to qualify for the U.S. team at Olympic Trials this summer.
If he makes the squad, he will be the youngest Gwinnett swimmer to make an Olympic swimming team since Weir, who made it for the first time in 2004, shortly after her high school graduation.
“The main goal is to make the team,” Magahey said. “It’s super competitive. But the thing about Trials is anything can happen. Looking at the 200 free, there are prelims, they take the top 16 and anything can mix up in the top 16. From 16, they take eight. Again, anything can happen as long as you race. I think I’m a pretty good racer. I’ve been training really good and my times have been dropping.
“I think it’s looking up for me. I think there’s a good chance I’ll be able to do that. I’ll just try my best and if I don’t make it, it’s not the end of the world. I’m 18 and in high school, and it’s very rare for a high-schooler to make it.”