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New Trier's Jack Mangan swam the first leg of the first-place winning 400-Yard Freestyle Relay during Saturday's IHSA State Championship. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Other than the white-suited IHSA officials, Jack Mangan had the best view for the finish of the state meet’s last race.
The New Trier senior swam the first leg in the 400-yard freestyle relay Saturday in the championship finals and then watched senior Brian Walsh, junior Jae Park and senior Reed Malone race to a time of 3 minutes, 2.75 seconds and the top prize — the team’s sixth championship of the day.
But it was before the race started that Mangan took a moment to make a memory. That’s when he got together with Walsh, Park and Malone in the locker room.
“It hit me then that this was going to be my last race in high school,” said Mangan, who plans to swim in college at Michigan. “It was me and the guys getting psyched up one last time. I was so excited to finish it off.”
For someone who didn’t know much about New Trier’s swimming history before high school, Mangan sure swam his way into the program’s lore.
Although he will leave without an individual state title, Mangan was a member of four relay championships and three consecutive team titles. In the 100 backstroke — his best event — Mangan took third place as a junior and fifth this season.
“It was interesting to get into this culture of everybody working and then working hard myself,” Mangan said.
Mark Onstott said Mangan might not have enjoyed all the training, but the New Trier coach said Mangan always came ready to practice.
“He didn’t mess around too much,” said Onstott, who guided the Trevians to three titles in a row for the first time since the 1960s. “He always was aware of what we needed to do. He’s a smart swimmer. He never came in and went through the motions.”
Malone remembered when Mangan first came to high school.
“He was so small, but he made up for it with his fast tempo,” Malone said. “He was a late bloomer.
“Jack and I blossomed together. There’s an unspoken bond between us because of what we’ve been through together.”
Mangan credited all the athletes in the program who came before him for showing him the right the way to approach his craft. Swimmers such as 2010 graduate Sam Metz and 2011 graduate C.J. Smith, who is now swimming at Minnesota.
“At first, I wasn’t someone who people looked up to, but I had great leaders before me,” Mangan said. “They all molded me into the leader that I became.”
Added Malone, “Jack has a leadership quality that is unparalleled. He just has that demeanor, one that says, ‘I got this.’ I’d like to think I am the same way, but he’s a special kid.”
Michigan coach Mike Bottom said he believes he signed a winner in Mangan. Bottom said he first noticed Mangan at last summer’s U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb. The coach followed Mangan closely after that.
“Jack has got some polish that we really love,” said Bottom, who headlines one of the country’s top teams. “He will fit right in with our team.”
Bottom said Mangan immediately will help the Wolverines in the 200-yard backstroke, an event not offered by the IHSA.
“He’s one of the best in the country,” Bottom said. “We have had a hole there for more than a year now, and we are looking at Jack to fill a big need for us. He will step right in.”
But Bottom also said Mangan was recruited for more than his talents in the pool.
“Jack’s a gentleman,” Bottom said. “He will fit right in with our team in more ways than just swimming.”~.