McDonnell Wraps Up Prolific Collegiate Career; Waligurski Reflects on Thursday's 1,500-Meter Run
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – This afternoon marked the end of a Bulldog's marvelous career for senior Shannon McDonnell at the NCAA East Preliminary Championship. The meet, hosted by the University of North Florida, featured the elite collegiate superstars of the eastern region, all vying for a spot in the National Championship next month in Eugene, Ore.
McDonnell competed in the first heat of the 800-meter quarterfinal, a strong 8-woman race featuring the nation's best middle-distance runners. In fact, the top three finishers in this heat had the fastest times overall. McDonnell did her best to stay on pace with the heat, running a first 400-meter split of 1:01.37. However, she was unfortunately unable to match such a fast split after a spectacular yet taxing performance on Thursday night. McDonnell still had a commendable performance, finishing with a time of 2:11.85, 22nd in the quarterfinal.
Though she was unable to punch her ticket to the NCAA Nationals, McDonnell brought to a close an amazing career. The star middle-distance runner served as an integral part on the team, both as an individual and on many relays. Coming into her final year, McDonnell did a commendable job filling in as captain of the cross country team, leading the team to its best finish in more than a decade at the Heptagonal Championship. McDonnell would go on to claim a victory at indoor Heps in the 800-meter run, and All-East honors at the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championship in the 1,000-meter run. Furthermore, McDonnell rarely finished outside of the top 5 over the last two years of races on the track. Over her entire collegiate career, McDonnell claimed 12 individual first-place finishes and contributed to 12 winning relays.
Though she was not able to beat her career best in the 800-meter run this past spring, McDonnell had her best showing at the East Prelims by crushing her seeded position to make it to the quarterfinals. Even though she was not able to advance further to the National Championship, McDonnell being among the top 24 of the entire eastern U.S. is no small feat. All in all, it's safe to say McDonnell closed out the final season of her collegiate career with a bang.
Meanwhile, junior Emily Waligurski reflected on her performance in the 1,500-meter run, admitting, "I wasn't completely satisfied with how my race went on Thursday." However, it's important to remember she was sidelined for the entire winter. She added, "In February, I didn't even think I'd be making it to regionals this year, after having to take almost 2 months off from running due to a knee injury. All things considered, I'm very happy with how this season went. I was able to PR (even if only by a few milliseconds) in the 1500, placed at HEPs, and made it to regionals."
Waligurski was one of three Bulldogs who qualified for the 1,500-meter final at outdoor Heps earlier in May, the highest number of Bulldogs to qualify for a final in recent memory. She attributed her ability to the team's productive season, declaring, "I really do think the team's momentum this year, especially Frances and Shannon's amazing accomplishments, helped to motivate me to make the best of this season."
Though Waligurski was understandably disappointed with her performance, missing the quarterfinal by a couple of seconds, she hopes to use her experience as a helpful guide for her final year on the team, stating, "I was a bit too detached from the pack early on in the race, and just didn't set myself up to have the good competitive race I would have liked. But I'm taking it as another building block and I think there are good things to come."
Junior Frances Schmiede will be the last Bulldog to compete for the team on Saturday evening. She will run in the second heat of the 1,500-meter quarterfinal in hopes of securing a spot in the National Championship. She will race at 6:30 p.m. and must place in the top 12 to make it to Eugene, Ore.
Ariel A. Sánchez '19, Yale Sports Publicity