With his collegiate career coming to an end, the circle that is Jack Dahlgren’s swimming career was completed.
After five seasons swimming in the Southeastern Conference for Missouri, Dahlgren, a Chanhassen High School graduate, competed in the 2023 NCAA Division I championships March 22-25 at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on the University of Minnesota campus. It was his fifth and final time swimming at the championship meet, and it came to a fitting conclusion in his home state at a pool where he previously reached a number of swimming accomplishments.
“It’s the perfect full circle. Every big meet growing up was there and I love that pool,” Dahlgren said. “A lot of the big college programs’ nice pools are pretty much the same. They have a bulkhead and they’re similar depth. But what makes a pool different are the facilities and town around it, and I love that whole area being right down right there in Minneapolis and having all my friends and family there.”
Competing in the pool was a natural fit, as swimming runs in the Dahlgren family. His mother, Kim, swam for Minnesota and was an assistant coach at Chanhassen while his older sister, Kylie, also swam for Missouri from 2016-19.
Heading into high school, however, Dahlgren needed to decide which sport he would continue competing in during the winter: basketball or swimming. As someone who enjoyed math and is now an engineering student at Missouri, he gravitated towards swimming because of a time being ‘cut and dry.’ Dahlgren admitted he hated going to practices because of the cold winters and the painful training sessions but eventually found passion for being in the water.
“I really love that feeling of having that control over the water,” Dahlgren said. “And you can feel when your stroke is more powerful or less powerful just by changing your angle and just all that daily experimentation.”
His passion bled into practice and meets. Not only did Dahlgren win two individual Class 2A state titles at the University of Minnesota in his senior year of high school, but according to former high school head coach Megan Hawker, Dahlgren was goal-oriented not just for himself but for the entire team and constantly brought different ideas to the pool deck.
“He just demonstrated immaculate leadership skills from the time he was about a freshman and all the way through his senior year,” Hawker said.
The move to Missouri
Dahlgren’s high school success led him to Columbia, Missouri, and the Tigers. In his previous four seasons with the team, he swam in all four NCAA championships, earned first team All-American honors twice and honorable mention honors seven times and won the Southeastern Conference Scholar Athlete of the Year in 2021-22.
Prior to the meet, however, Dahlgren said he and the team had unfinished business after Missouri placed 25th last season. The Tigers finished tied for 16th in this season’s meet out of 38 teams. He added that he had the goal of winning either of his individual events: the 200 freestyle or 200 backstroke. Dahlgren came up short, placing fifth in the 200 freestyle and seventh in the 200 backstroke.
Dahlgren also swam on all five relay teams, with the highest finish for Missouri coming in the 400 medley relay at ninth place out of 22 teams.
The full circle moment
Student-athletes were able to request tickets for the event, with most of the members of the Tigers requesting a small number. With the NCAA championships practically being a home meet for Dahlgren, he requested 21 for people like Hawker and his family who will be in the stands cheering for him.
“For him to experience that final moment at his home state, I think it’s just going to be so special for him and so special for his family and just the perfect closure for his collegiate career for him,” Hawker said.
Dahlgren will graduate in the spring or summer with a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering. His swimming career is not over, as Dahlgren will try to earn sponsorships while swimming professionally along with possibly reaching the U.S. Olympic Trials. But before swimming one last time for Missouri, he also recognized how special this moment was going to be for him.