Rebecca O’Donnell never expected to be a state champion.
“I was pretty unathletic before I hit high school,” she said with a laugh.
But those days seem to be gone.
O’Donnell had been a standout jumper with the Pilgrim track team since her freshman year and she emerged as one of the best in the state this year in her junior season. O’Donnell won the long jump at the indoor track state meet, giving Pilgrim its first individual champ in years.
“It’s still so surreal,” she said. “When I think back to it, I can’t believe it. I knew I was going to do well but I didn’t know I would win.”
O’Donnell first tried the long jump in eighth grade gym class. After running cross country in the fall of her freshman year, she started jumping for Pilgrim that winter and qualified for the state meet. She was one of only two freshmen in the state long jump field.
“Something just clicked,” O’Donnell said. “I fell in love with it.”
With the help of Pilgrim head coach Tom Dolce and others like Erik Clinton and Pilgrim boys’ coach Mike Daniels, O’Donnell’s jumping reached new heights the next year, when she finished fourth at indoor states as a sophomore.
This year, she took another leap. O’Donnell’s jump of 17 feet, 10 inches beat out Prout standout Karly Gregory and Mount St. Charles star Cassie Roberge.
“I definitely wanted to make top four, but first was not on my radar,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell followed up her indoor success with two medals at outdoor states. Despite a sore hip, she finished second in the triple jump and third in the long jump.
She also led a growing group of Pilgrim jumpers. At the state meet, the Pats had six entries between the long jump and the triple jump. O’Donnell’s knowledge and example are a big reason why.
“We have a great group of athletes and they’re all willing to help each other,” Dolce said. “Rebecca has been to a lot of camps and done a lot of work on her own. It’s nice to see.”
O’Donnell is starting to see the work pay off. In addition to all the medals, she’s exploring the possibilities of doing track at the next level.
But before she gets there, she’s got more to do at Pilgrim.
“My expectations are high for next year,” O’Donnell said.
“Hopefully I can achieve it.”