Sewickley Heights’ McLean chooses to play polo for Virginia

Friday, April 20, 2018 | 11:00 PM

After repeating as national champion with his scholastic team, Jack McLean of Sewickley Heights will continue his polo career with one of the top college programs in the nation.

McLean, a senior who does high school online, is practicing with the Virginia polo club and plans to compete for it next season.

McLean led Maryland to the United States Polo Association Open National Interscholastic title in March at Cornell. He was one of four players named tournament all-star.

Maryland, the Southeastern Regional champion, downed Northeastern Regional champion Gardnertown, of New York, 20-11, in the final. In one stretch, McLean and a teammate combined for seven goals.

“It was different this year as I was healthy and fit,” said McLean, who played with a broken ankle last season. “We practiced quite a bit leading up to nationals.”

Maryland coach Kelly Wells said McLean, who is 5-foot-7, has gotten taller and stronger and is a strong rider.

McLean said after working in Virginia, going to college there will be like a second home.

“Inititally, I considered Harvard, but I found UVA had strong academics as well as offered the best polo program in the United States,” he said. “I attended clinics and played interscholastic polo at the (university) polo center.”

McLean, who plans to study finance and pre-law, said his goals are to get a great education, continue to improve and win a national championship.

Virginia has earned 11 national crowns.

Virginia coach Lou Lopez expects McLean to shine if he spends as much time at the barn as anticipated.

“His maturity level is well beyond his years,” Lopez said. “He’s been the type of player I’ve been after for a long time.”

McLean, whose family lives on a farm, has been playing polo for seven years and riding since he was 6 years old, mostly on jumps and fox hunts.

Joseph McLean admires his son’s dedication.

“My wife, Chris, and I are so proud of Jack’s sacrifice and hard work,” he said.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.