When Christ the King’s swimming teams began practice for the 2014-2015 season in October, Jane Donahue had to watch from the sidelines.
But what Donahue accomplished when she was able to get back into the pool was remarkable.
Donahue won the girls’ 200-yard individual medley at the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s 1A/2A state championships, held Feb. 21 at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary. She also finished second in the 100-yard breaststroke.
It was the first state title – in any sport – for Christ the King, a Catholic high school in Huntersville that opened four years ago.
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“Before my injuries, I thought I had a chance,” said Donahue, who finished second in both events at the 2014 1A/2A state meet. “But I had a lot of pressure last year. This year, I just didn’t worry about it. I just swam.”
Donahue swimming in the state meet, much less medaling in two events, nearly didn’t happen.
Injuries to the pectoral muscle in her left shoulder and a lumbar strain in her lower back, as well as dealing with a case of vertigo, kept Donahue out of practices and meets until January.
“That occurred in October, back before we had any high school meets,” said Tom Donahue, Jane’s father and Christ the King’s coach. “Her doctor wanted her out of the pool until late January, which would have meant she would have missed all of the meets.
“So she came back in early January just to swim in some meets. No training, no time to prepare, but she got qualified for the regionals. So the expectations weren’t necessarily as high as we had going into the year. But she turned in some pretty special swims.”
Having Jane Donahue in the state meet also helped Christ the King’s girls’ swim team in another way: it allowed the school’s girls’ 200-yard medley relay and 400-yard freestyle relay teams to also compete.
The added points from those two relay events – swam by Donahue and fellow sophomores Megan Gervasini, Michaela Kocher and Bernadette Selzer – allowed Christ the King to finish 13th in the girls’ team standings. CTK’s boys finished 10th.
“We’re glad she did it, because it brought along those other three kids in the relays,” Tom Donahue said. “It was important for the program, and important for those kids to get that experience.”
Jane Donahue won both the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke at the 1A/2A Western Regional meet, and qualified as one of the top seeds in both events for the state meet.
That’s when Donahue – who has trained at the NOMAD Aquatics and Fitness facility, and swam with the NOMAD Aquatics team since age 9 – really started to show her stuff.
“I thought I was going to add a lot of time,” she said. “But I was only a second off my best time in both events. I was pretty pumped.”
At the states, Donahue turned in the second best preliminary time in the 200 individual medley to Carrboro’s Mia Morrell, but in the finals improved on that by more than 4 seconds. Her finals time of 2 minutes, 5.07 seconds beat Morrell by a full 2 seconds.
In the 100 breaststroke, Donahue also had the second-best preliminary time to defending state champ Olivia Ontjes of Raleigh Charter. She went on to finish second to Ontjes in the final, posting a time of 1:04.90 to Ontjes’ 1A/2A state record time of 1:02.64.
“In our conversations, it was just ‘race that kid next to you,’” Tom Donahue said. “We knew she could get into the finals even if she hadn’t been training. It was just a matter of forgetting everything else, and just racing the kid beside her.
“As it turned out, her times weren’t very far off her best times, which was even more stunning to me.”
Bill Kiser is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Bill? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.