MALVERN >> Growing up as the middle child in a family of five rambunctious boys, Jack Traynor came about is competitive nature very early in life.
Whether it was vying for food or affection, or later on trying to keep up with older siblings in everything from video games to ping pong, Traynor quickly developed into a fierce competitor. And it’s now paying off on the lacrosse field.
“I hate to lose,” said Traynor, a native of Downingtown. “When your teammates see that you are a guy who can’t stand to lose, it propels them to think the same way.”
That inner drive, combined with off-the-chart athleticism and an impressive skill set, Traynor led Malvern Prep to a championship season this spring. His head coach, John McEVoy, says that Traynor became one of the best high school athletes and players at any position in the country.
“Jack is such a competitive guy and he hates to lose,” McEvoy said. “He goes out there, he wants to be around the ball all the time, and he wants to make a great play every time he is out there. And he’s always been that way.
“The great players – the ones college coaches all want – are the ones who are not only tough on the field, but they are high achievers. They want to win at everything they do, whether it’s ping-pong, pickup basketball, dodge-ball or whatever. That’s what he has.”
The 2018 Daily Local News Player of the Year, Traynor was a standout senior on a star-studded Malvern squad that went 15-6 despite playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation, and capped it off by dethroning Haverford for the Inter-Ac title.
“It was a rocky season,” said Traynor, who finished with 55 goals and 18 assists. “We had our ups and downs, but we were playing our best lacrosse at the end of the season.”
A team MVP and two-time All-State and All-American selection, Traynor has signed for a full-ride athletic scholarship to Penn State.
“He is as good as any attack man I’ve had before. We shaped a lot of what we do around him and it will take a lot of hard work to replace him,” McEvoy said.
“It feels good to get recognition, but when it comes down to it, all I was concerned about was winning the Inter-Ac,” Traynor added. “That’s all I wanted.”
A four-year varsity player, Traynor headed into the May 21st showdown having lost nine of 10 to the Fords, including a 12-9 squeaker earlier in the regular season. But with Traynor leading the way with four goals, Malvern prevailed 17-13.
“(Haverford) had the upper hand the last four years, but luckily we were able to get that last one,” Traynor said. “You could tell that things were different at the end of the season – we just wanted it so bad.”
Like all Inter-Ac schools, Malvern is not eligible to compete for a state championship. But for a point of reference, the Friars easily topped Avon Grove – the 2017 PIAA 3A State Champs – as well as La Salle, a finalist in 2018.
“I’d like to see the Inter-Ac champion play the PIAA champion,” Traynor said. “We would definitely contend (for a state title) and we would have a strong chance to win if we got a chance.”
This season Traynor had no trouble distinguishing himself on an attack that also included standouts like Scott White (Ohio State signee), Quinn McCahon (Notre Dame), Seamus Glynn (Penn State), Jordan Donaghy (Penn State) and Matt Hilburn (Boston University).
“With the offense at Malvern, we pride ourselves that it’s all six guys, moving and making their teammates better,” he explained.
And it’s not like Traynor was able to sneak up on anybody. His oldest brother, Tripp (Malvern class of 2014) went on to be a captain at Penn State. He also played two high school seasons with brother A.J., who is a rising junior at Loyola, Md. And his younger brothers, Matt and Kyle, are up and coming standouts at Malvern.
“Everything we do, we are always pushing each other and competing,” Jack said of his brothers.
Part of a promising class of freshmen, Traynor was one of five to make the Malvern Prep varsity back in 2015.
“That’s really uncommon,” McEvoy pointed out.
“I put Jack out there as a freshman. And at age 14, he was a tiny guy going against some of the best players in the country. But he never backed down.
“I guess he didn’t know any better, and more times than not, he came away impressively. When you see that from a freshman, you know he’s got those intangibles you can’t ignore.”
But at 5-foot-5, 140-pounds, Traynor was often out-muscled by larger foes. With a lot of work in the weight room, he eventually bulked up to his current 5-9, 175.
“I had the skill but I didn’t have the strength. And if you are not strong enough, you will just get bullied,” he said.
“Jack has a good frame and he’s strong,” McEvoy added. “He’s worked very hard in the weight room.
“So during the off-season when the kids are running or in the weight room, he is there with a purpose: to get better at all times. That’s something that separates him from a lot of guys.”
Noted for his versatility and speed on the field, it’s not surprising that Traynor described himself as ‘a grinder.’
“I pride myself on doing the little things like ground balls, riding – things that not everybody wants to do, but things that make you a better player,” he said.