As a kid, Matt Magness roamed his family’s farm in Chadds Ford with his older brothers, Jason and Luke.
Magness rode dirt bikes, moved hay bales and did other work with his brothers. To this day, the boys still ride ATVs and take care of the cows, chickens, sheep and horses that reside on the property.
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But when Matt, Jason, Luke, and their sister, Brenna, played in their backyard, their mother, Michele, worried that one of them would accidentally fall into their in-ground pool.
So, Michele hired swimming instructors to come to their house and teach the kids to swim just in case one of them decided to take a dip.
“I’m the pretty relaxed mom,” Michele said laughing. “It was just preventative. You don’t really think this could happen. But obviously it can. You hear about it all of the time.”
Since then, the Magness family hasn’t been able to get Matt to stay out of the pool.
Magness, now a senior swimmer at Malvern Prep, helped the Friars in January repeat as the National Catholic Swimming and Diving champions for the first time since 1972.
“That was huge,” Magness said of the championship. “That was definitely something that we knew was a possibility at the beginning of the year. And then to finally achieve that was a great feeling.”
In the last two seasons, Magness has earned male swimmer of the meet honors twice and won a combined four individual gold medals at the event at Loyola University in Maryland.
Magness and Malvern Prep fell short of the Inter-Academic League boys’ swimming title when the Friars placed third last week. But he still has plenty of swimming left in his future.
Magness will continue his swimming career at Ohio State next season. His top three college choices were the Buckeyes, Auburn and North Carolina State.
Magness said he picked Ohio State because of its strong academics, especially the extra help offered in the classroom to student athletes, and the network of alumni around the world for connections after college.
“The college coaches are looking at a kid who can come in, be a part of their team and go to the conference championship,” said Malvern Prep swimming coach Jay Schiller, who has won coach of meet the last two years at the National Catholic meet. “Matt certainly is an athlete that can do that.”
Magness transferred to Malvern Prep after he went through a frustrating freshman year on the boys’ swimming team at Unionville. When Magness decided to transfer, the first person he contacted was Schiller, the man he’s known since his early swimming career.
Schiller first met Magness when Schiller coached against him in youth summer swimming leagues. Magness swam for Radley Run Country Club, and Schiller coached for Chester Valley Golf Club.
Even back then, Schiller said, Magness was more physically gifted than his competition and a dominant force in the pool.
Parents who attended the meets coined the nickname, “The Beast” due to Magness’ ability to stand out in the water. He still owns youth swimming records in that summer league, Schiller said.
“He attacked races as a kid,” Schiller said. “His strokes were impeccable. His butterflies technique-wise were almost flawless. His freestyle was exceptional. You can see he was trained right.”
Since Magness and the Friars have already claimed the National Catholic championships, he’s got another big meet on his mind: the Eastern Interscholastic Swimming and Diving championships on Feb. 15 and 16 at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster.
Malvern Prep finished fourth at the race in 2018, and Magness said he’s looking to avenge that performance at his final Eastern meet as a Friar.