Claire Donahue’s final season at WKU ended Saturday with a record-setting showing at the 2011 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in Austin, Texas.
Donahue set two school records in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly events, in which she placed second and 14th, respectively.
Both performances set new school records, and her second-place finish in the 100 fly, in which she recorded a time of 51.68 seconds, was the highest individual national finish for a WKU swimmer in school history.
“There were so many little things that went into that race,” Donahue said.
Donahue and Head Coach Bruce Marchionda cited starts and underwater kicks as major points in her yearlong training for nationals.
Another important part of her preparation was visualization, Marchionda said. He and Assistant Coach Rita Kalmikova both said they had worked with Donahue in seeing the race and preparing.
“I mostly worked on mental preparation and visualization with her,” Kalmikova said. “When she got there, it was like she had done it 100 times.”
Donahue arrived in Austin on Tuesday and returned to Bowling Green on Sunday. She said she practiced some last Tuesday and Wednesday and was in competition the rest of the time.
Donahue said she was content with her performance in the 100 fly despite her goal of winning.
“We’d been working for the past year on the 100 fly, and I didn’t win, but I swam well and was close,” she said. “I always have high goals, so I’m not always completely satisfied.”
Marchionda said he was happy with Donahue’s final competition for WKU, calling it a “great way for her to end her college career.”
“Her dedication and training here in the summer and over the year paid off,” he said.
Donahue, who set new school records every year she competed and will be training for the 2012 Olympic trials here in Bowling Green for the next year, leaves some big shoes for the program to fill.
“Athletes like Claire don’t come around often,” Kalmikova said. “It was fun to watch her grow as an athlete and a competitor.”
Kalmikova stressed that the team would continue to compete in Donahue’s absence. The senior’s efforts in Austin earned WKU 20 team points, placing the school 27th nationally.
“When Claire came in she was no different than anyone else,” Kalmikova said. “As much as we’ll miss her, we will keep going.”
Donahue will also keep going. The 2012 London Olympic trials will take place in Omaha, Neb., next July, and she has plans to stay in Bowling Green and prepare.
“Basically she’ll stay here and train for the next year, go to a couple national championships and prepare for the Olympic trials,” Marchionda said.
Donahue also said she would stay dedicated in her training.
“I’m going to work at every practice to succeed in my ultimate goal — competing in the Olympic trials,” she said.