Girls Track: Loyola asks McDonnell to perform beyond her years
Winnetka Saturday 4/28/12 Loyola's Amanda Bombard during the 4x8 realy. | Jerry Daliege~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 4, 2012 11:05AM
The Loyola Academy girls track team’s distance program was left with a gaping void following the graduation of runner Rachel Price.
More than just expecting strong individual performances in meets, the Ramblers’ coaching staff looked to sophomore Jackie McDonnell to provide leadership in practice and help tutor the team’s other runners — some with more experience — from the beginning of this season.
“This year she’s really had to, as a sophomore, be our best kid and leader on the track, in terms of distances and middle distances,” Loyola coach ChrisJon Simon said. “So that’s a challenge (because) you have to lead the workouts, set the expectations (for) when we go to a meet — what does it look like in terms of her pacing or being out in front — and really being the go-to person.
“Last year, we graduated Rachel Price, who was really talented and worked with (McDonnell) as a freshman and really (McDonnell) just had to follow that standard presented by that senior. Now she’s got to be that leader. There might be kids who are older, but in terms of her ability she’s definitely the leader.”
After struggling at times during the fall cross country season, McDonnell has recaptured last year’s form that she used to qualify for state in the 800-meter run and as a member of one of the Ramblers’ four relays to advance.
At Saturday’s New Trier Invitational — a preview of many of the teams Loyola is likely to compete against at sectionals — McDonnell finished third in the 800 by running a 2:20.50 on a cold, wet day. That time neared her personal best, and was within two seconds of Evanston standout Jahnell Horton, who finished second.
“This was a big meet that would give us a good indication of where we are,” said McDonnell after anchoring Loyola’s 4x400 relay. “We see (these teams) at sectionals, so this was a good way to compare today.”
McDonnell’s progress highlights the emergence of several underclassmen who performed exceptionally well at New Trier to help the Ramblers score 76 points, which was good for a tie for third with Evanston.
McDonnell, Emma Thomas (400), Hannah Hess (300 hurdles), Caroline Zaworski (1600) and Eloise Hawley (triple jump) all finished in the top-eight in individual events.
The influx of underclassmen to Loyola’s varsity squad has been accompanied by a new set of opportunities for the Loyola coaching staff.
“It’s a great thing that we have some freshmen and sophomores (contributing), but our challenge has been at the lower level, overall, with the entire team,” Simon said. “That’s exciting, but it’s definitely a challenge to get them to understand the level that they have to perform at. So that’s why the New Trier meet was so good because that was a preview of what a sectional would look like — the level of competition.”