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PHS Swimmng: Ethan McMahon wins Perham's 1st State Swimming Championship

Perham senior Ethan McMahon show's off the 1st place medal he earned as the Class A State Champion in the 100 butterfly at the U of M's Aquatic Center in Minneapolis last weekend. He is the school's most decorated swimmer, finishing 5th in the fly last year, and taking 4th in the 200 I.M. this year to go with his 100 fly title.1 / 2
Ethan McMahon reacts to winning the 100 butterfly at the Minnesota Class A State Championships Saturday.2 / 2

By John George

When the fog finally lifted, literally, Ethan McMahon finally had his championship.

The Perham senior had trouble seeing the scoreboard after the 100m butterfly finals at the State Class A Swimming and Diving Meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center Saturday.

"My goggles kinda fogged up at the end," McMahon said. "o as soon as I got done I was wondering, 'Who won? Who won?' I was tryiing to get my goggles off as fast as I could to see the scoreboard. When I saw that No. 1 next to my name. Wow. I was speechless. I couldn't believe it for a second. I don't know if I still believe it. It's awesome. I'm in awe. Total awe."

What McMahon saw was the time of 52.27 next to his name, along with that No. 1 in the place column.

It's the first championship of any kind for the Perham boys swim team.

"It's still kinda sinking in a little bit," McMahon said afterwards. "At the beginning of my swim career at Perham, I didn't think I could compete with such high quality swimmers like thay had at State. But towards the end of the year, when I actually made it to State and finished fifth, I totally began to think that winning it was a possibility. I had the confidence that I was totally capible to catching these guys and winning it. And I did. It feels great.

McMahon moved from Oregon to Perham two years ago and began rewriting the Yellowjacket record book. Last year as a junior, he finished fifth in the butterfly and 16th in the 200 I.M. at State. In addition to his championship in the fly, he finished 4th in the I.M.

"He had the jitters before going out for the 200 I.M.," head coach Sheri Ressler said. "I think that event warmed him up good and finishing fourth really calmed him down for the fly.

"I told him before the race," Ressler continued. "Beat the guy's next to you. Be loose. Be confident and you'll do awesome."

McMahon and Joey Clapp of Faribault were the only returning medal-winners in the 100 fly. They placed fifth and third, respectively, in 2008.

McMahon's qualifying time of 53.38 at sections was the fastest heading into the State Meet and was the school record.

In the prelims, Tim O'Brien of St. Thomas Academy had the fastest time, 53.09. McMahon lowered his school record with a time of 53.32, which was the second best time of the prelims.

Jon Cesena of Sauk Rapids-Rice, who was disqualified in last year's finals, was fourth after the prelims (54.06), just behind Kyle Engen of Red Wing (53.66). Clapp was fifth after the prelims (54.26).

"I was pretty sure I could still drop my time a little bit (after the prelims)," McMahon said.

But, then there was a problem. Prior to the start of the 100 fly, while the divingfinals were taking place. McMahon couldn't find his "second suit", as he called. The full-length body suit he wears for competition.

"I started freaking out a little bit," he said. "My other one kinda restrict's my shoulders a little bit. So I was glad when I found my regular suit."

He had a good feeling about his finals heat as soon as he hit the water.

"I usually know when I'm in the lead," he said. "I knew I had one of the fastest splits (time at the 50m meter mark of the 100m race). But I didn't know how fast I was realy going. I knew I felt pretty good out there.

After the final turn, heading into the final 25 meters, McMahon had a lead of half of a body length.

"I just didn't want to breath (over the final 25 meters)," he said. "I just didn't want to waste any time breathing. I just wanted to get to that finish as fast as I could. I kept my head down and muscled my way to the end."

He go to the end just ahead of Red Wing's Engen, who was second with a time of 52.40. O'Brien of STA was third (52.99).

McMahon's fifth place time last year was 55.90. That had been the highest finish of any Yellowjacket swimer at a State Meet.

There was another slight problem on his way to the medal stand.

"One of the guys forgot his warm-ups, so that delayed it ( the awards) for a bit," McMahon said. "I was getting so anxious. I just wanted that medal so bad."

The perma-grin expression on his face said it all. All the work, all the time in the pool. It was all worth while. He was now a State Champion.

"Keeping that No. 1 time in State all this year really motivated me," he said. "I kept competing against myself. Keep that time. Keep that time. Once I hit that State qualifying time in our first meet, I had to keep it there, no matter what.

"Sheri and my teammates did a great job of supporting me and keeping me focused," he added. "They're all great."

200 I.M.

In the 200 individual medley prelims on Friday afternoon, Ethan McMahon had a time of 2:01.78, which was the fourth fastest of the three prelim heats.

Defending champion Mike Hurley had the fastest prelim time of 1:55.74. That broke his State Record, set at last year's State Meet. He also owned this year's best qualifying time of 1:55.09 entering State.

Hurley flew by his previous record, and by the rest of the field, taking first in the finals with a State record time of 1:49.58. The second place time was nearly seven seconds slower at 1:56.34.

McMahon was able to lower his prelim time, finishing fourth overall with a 2:01.20.

McMahon's prelim time was nearly two seconds faster than his qualifying with a time of 2:03.42 at the Section 3A Meet last week in Hutchinson.

"Even I was surprised by that," he said. That broke his own school record and was good for second place at the Section 3A Meet (behind Hurley).

McMahon finished 16th at State last year with a time of 2:09.84.