On heels of All-America honor, local swimmer heads to college

Scott Swanson

When Magen Hager finished the 200 Freestyle preliminary race at the 4A/3A/2A/1A swimming state championships last February, she knew she’d fulfilled a big goal: she’d set a state record in the event with her time of 1:50.63.

What she didn’t know was that she’d also fulfilled another longtime goal, one that she wasn’t really thinking about. With that swim she’d gained high school All-American status, which goes to the top 100 swimmers nationwide in the event.

“Honestly, it wasn’t in my mind at all,” Hager said. “Earlier in my high school career, I had always said I wanted to All-American in the 100 Freestyle. That was always the goal I was working towards.”

But when the district and state meets rolled around this year, she decided to compete in the 200 Freestyle event. And it paid off at state.

“I just had a really good swim,” Hager said. “I really wanted to break the state record. That’s really what I was focusing on.”

She was the first Husky female swimmer in 30 years to gain All-American status. The last was Leah Lamb, in 1989, who also was an All-American in 1987, when she set the school record of 2:05.6 in the 200 Medley Relay that still stands today. The last Sweet Home boy to gain All-American was Jayce Calhoon in 2009, in the 100 Backstroke (51.9).

In setting the record, Hager beat the previous state mark set by former Sweet Home teammate Lucie Davis in 2017.

During the finals, on the next day, when she swam just slightly slower, Hager said it was announced that her time qualified for All-American consideration.

“I thought, ‘Oh, that’s cool,'” Hager said. “They have an absurdly fast automatic time, then they have everybody else.”

After the meet she did some research and discovered that she had the fastest time in the state – of high school swimmers at all levels.

“I got pretty excited about that. If some of the smaller states didn’t have anybody faster than me, and the bigger states, like California, had a couple, then I had a real shot at this thing. Turned out, I was the 85th fastest in the nation.”

Doug Peargin coached Lamb and Calhoon, as well as Bruce Davis, who starred for the Huskies in the late 1980s and still holds several school records. Peargin said Hager is “a good one.”

“Luci held the state record in the 200 Free and she beat it. She’s a competitor and a good athlete. You put those things together, you’ve got a tough kid. She’s got a good head on her shoulders. Never got a B in her life. If you have brains, brawn and that kind of drive, you’re an animal.”

Hager started swimming at 9, when she lived in Albany. A year later, she took a break when her family moved to Sweet Home and couldn’t immediately connect with the Sweet Home Swim Club. The following year she was back in the water, she said, and by the time she was 11 she “really started getting competitive.”

“It’s been about nine years,” she said of her swimming career. “I’d say seven of those have been really competitive, where I had goals and realized I wanted to go somewhere with swimming.”

That was then and this is now, and swimming has gotten complicated, especially at the college level, with the coronavirus shutdowns.

Hager is headed for Colorado State University this week, where she has a swimming scholarship and plans to compete – if there is swimming in the COVID-confused world of college athletics.

The Mountain West Conference, of which CSU is a member, announced earlier this month that it has canceled all fall competition in women’s swimming and diving, golf, tennis, indoor track and field, softball and baseball.

That followed an announcement in early July that Boise State, another MWC member, was cutting swimming and baseball, leaving former Huskies Davis and Lauren Yon, who had transferred to BSU following the cutting of women’s swimming at Oregon State University, facing the decision to call it quits or transfer.

Hager is hopeful that she can at least get into the Rec Center at CSU and get in the pool. At home, she typically swims between 4,000 and 6,000 yards a night when she’s training, and adds another 2,000 to 3,000 yards when morning practices are held.

“Some days I just have to grind out a whole 7,000 yards,” she said. “It just depends on what our focus is for the night. There’s a whole lot of swimming that weights can’t replicate, that the mountain bike (which she sometimes uses for additional workouts) can’t replicate.

“When COVID started, I would mountain bike 10K every day, but when I came back to the pool, I was still winded. (Swimming is) a very difficult sport to keep up with if you’re not doing it.”

She said if things normalize, she may shoot to make the Olympic trials as a college senior, “if we get to swim.”

“I’m not quite cut out for it right now. If we have to take a two-year break, I’m not sure where I’ll end up. But I’ll be in the same boat as everyone else at that point. I’m really trying to focus on that. Everybody in the whole conference is not able to swim. When it was shut down here (in Oregon last spring), everybody in the state couldn’t swim.

“Like they keep saying, ‘we’re all in this together.’ That goes for sports too and the level of fitness we can be at.”

Meanwhile, that All-American status puts some icing on the cake as her high school career ends, she said.

“I’m the most pleased with this achievement,” she said. “It’s not just 4A and under. It’s not just Oregon. It’s the entire country.”