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Holt's Mack overcomes adversity to cap off swim career in style

Holt's Mack overcomes adversity to cap off swim career in style

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Austin Mack wasn’t sure what was wrong.

The Holt senior was a club swimmer and had qualified for state in his freshman and sophomore years. He qualified for state as a junior as well, but something was off.

“He wasn’t sure why he wasn’t able to hit his times,” Holt coach James Palmer said. “He’s a club swimmer and he knows what he should get. He was thrown off.”

Mack was perplexed.

“I was lacking energy. I could hardly move at that point because I was so exhausted,” he said. “We only found out a week after the state competition what it was.”

The diagnosis for Mack was Type 1 diabetes.

“He finally got that clarification from the doctors that, ‘Hey, this is what’s going on,’ ” Palmer said. “Since then, he’s been on a different diet and doing really great things.”

The latest great thing came at last week’s Gateway Athletic Conference South Division championships, where Mack earned four medals, including a pair of first-place finishes in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 butterfly.

“It couldn’t have been a better ending for a conference meet for him,” Palmer said. “Walking away with four medals and two first places is a storybook ending. I’m so happy he was able to get some redemption on what happened last year.”

Mack had a modest showing as a freshman in the final state meet with just one classification with a 45th-place finish out of 49 swimmers in the 100 fly and a 33rd-place showing as part of the Indians’ 200 free relay team.

As a sophomore, Mack qualified in four events. He saw a little more success individually, placing 18th in the 100 fly, along with a 28th-place finish in the 500 free. He also swam on the Indians’ 19th-place 200 medley relay and 12th-place 400 free relay.

But Mack’s times were getting slower and his finishes were getting higher his junior season. He did compete on the Indians’ 12th-place 400 free relay and 25th-place 200 free relay teams at the Class 2 meet. And he did swim in the 100 fly, but he came in 30th out of 32 swimmers with a time of 56.76 seconds, which was 1.35 seconds slower than his state meet time the previous year.

Then, came the diagnosis and the relief that came with knowing what was finally hindering him.

“As it is with that sort of thing, once you figure out what the problem is, you can properly treat it, so you can get back on track,” Mack said.

Mack is back on track this year, and his showing at the GAC South championships proves it.

He swam a personal-best 2:03.61 in the 200 IM to narrowly edge Fort Zumwalt West’s Braden Cearley (2:03.63) in the day’s most exciting race.

“It’s such an interesting thing because all it takes is two-hundredths of a second to make the difference between first and second,” Mack said. “That’s why I absolutely love this sport. It comes down to a battle of will at that point.”

And then he nearly had another personal best in the 100 fly with a time of 54.41. Even though he just missed his PR, the time was good enough for another first-place medal and was exactly one second better than his state time as a sophomore and a whopping 2.35 seconds better than last season’s state meet.

That success gives Mack a world of confidence heading into this year’s Class 2 state meet, which will be Friday and Saturday at St. Peters Rec-Plex. Class 1 events will be contested Thursday and Friday.

“I think he’s going to go off the top, that’s for sure. He’s elated and he’s on Cloud 9 right now. Nothing’s going to bring him down,” Palmer said. “Once we get through his state taper for this next week, he’s going to be able to shave off some more time. Right now, he’s at 13th and 17th with both of those events, so he could potentially be in the top 16.

Mack is looking forward to the heat of the competition, which he said he loves.

“It’s an awesome way to finish off the season,” he said. “It’s thrilling to make state for the fourth year this year. I think it’s going to be super fun. I’m super excited.”

And Palmer is happy to have the old Austin Mack back in the fold.

“Just knowing his story makes it phenomenal,” Palmer said. “He’ll do anything you ask and he’ll always do it with a smile and he’ll be the person to rally the troops, if you need it. It couldn’t have happened to a better person. Through and through, he is truly a great person.”


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