By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Two years ago, Mac Johnson joined the Stillwater High School swimming team hoping to just fit in somewhere.
Not only is Johnson fitting in, he’s gone from a relatively unknown to one of the most recognizable names on the Pioneers’ swim team.
“He started swimming when he was a sophomore, but now he’s up there with the elite swimmers,” Stillwater coach Kurt Goebel said. “He worked hard to perfect his stroke. He made some big strides and that’s only helped him get better as his career as gone on.”
It hasn’t been easy for the Stillwater senior. Sometimes Johnson’s career has been as rocky as the wake created by the lead swimmers in the 50-meter freestyle. But on Senior Night — a night dedicated to honor swimmers like Johnson — the Stillwater standout proved he still has something left in the tank.
Johnson’s extra boost at the end of the 100-meter freestyle helped him edge Norman North’s Alex McMillen by .30 seconds with a time of 58.88 seconds
“I knew coming in that that kid had a faster time than I did,” Johnson said. “I knew he was going to be in my range and it was going to be close. But to win by that much felt really good. It just builds momentum for the rest of the season and makes you want to go faster.”
Since then, the Stillwater senior’s stock has continued to rise. In Thursday’s meet against Bixby and Ponca City, Johnson picked up another close victory — beating one swimmer in particular that had beat him before.
“He just continues to amaze me every time he’s in the pool,” Goebel said. “He has the right attitude toward doing well and he pushes himself to work harder than everybody else.”
That desire to work harder than everybody comes naturally for Johnson. He spent several years of his childhood playing other sports, but none of them seemed to fit.
He decided to go out for the swim team and immediately took to the sport like a fish in water.
“My friends got me to try track and wrestling, and I was looking for more of a challenge,” Johnson said. “I figured since I already did those two, swimming would be relatively easy but it kicked my butt. At the same time, it made me feel good about myself and what I was doing. I’m in my third year now, so I’m accustomed to it. Most of the guys that beat me will swim at state and have been swimming since they were little, so I do have a lot more confidence now.”
Using that competitive fire he gained from playing all those other sports, he began training harder — hoping to one day be the best swimmer Stillwater has ever seen.
“He’s likes to be competitive,” Goebel said. “Whether it’s in practice or a meet, he’s going to push you. One thing about him was that he had a little trouble faltering early in races because he would get so nervous. He’s since learned to embrace that and that’s helped him become that much more of a competitor.”
With his senior season winding down, Johnson still has a couple goals left to accomplish before he calls it a career. And with his attitude and work ethic, don’t be surprised if he comes home with a couple of individual medals.
“My first year I just wanted to make it to state and last year I wanted to make it to the second day,” Johnson said. “This year, my goal is to make it in the top eight in each of my races. A lot of that depends on which races coach Goebel puts me in, but I know I just have to push hard and compete.
“It would mean the world to me if I came back with a medal. It would just solidify an already great experience. It really would be the perfect cap on my career to go out like that.”
Jordan Brown, boys basketball
Jenny Scarbrough, girls basketball
Joe Smith, wrestling