O’Donnell is an all-around threat


Sophomore Lisa O’Donnell poses during her floor routine during the regular-season ending victory against Hamline University (Minnesota). O’Donnell won the floor exercise competition with a score of 9.800, her season best score. Photo by Sierra High


This is a characteristic which sophomore Lisa O’Donnell could very well wear on her sleeve.

As a strong competitor for the UW-Whitewater gymnastics team, the success she has had this season has taken more work and dedication than one may think.

“She’s willing to work extremely hard, and I hope she continues this hard work and pushes herself because she’s capable of amazing things,” assistant coach Allison Annala said.

O’Donnell’s hard work has paid off multiple times within her two years competing for the ’Hawks. With a national title on the floor in the 2016 season and competing as an all-around gymnast as a sophomore, she never seems to disappoint.

O’Donnell started her gymnastics career when she was six years old, but she ended up giving up on it a couple years later until a friend of her eventual club coach Krystal Gavras came to her and convinced her to re-join. This was when her career started to take off again.

It was then when Gavras saw O’Donnell’s potential.

“I didn’t really keep up with elite gymnastics or college gymnastics, but the one person that inspired me the most was my high school coach Krystal Gavras,” O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell competed in high school at a club facility while going to school at Morton West High in Berwyn, Illinois.

Although O’Donnell enjoys the UW-W athletic program, it wasn’t her first choice. O’Donnell was first committed to UW-Lacrosse for gymnastics before head coach Jennifer Regan recruited her for the Warhawks.

Within the recruitment process, Annala saw a promising career in her from the very beginning.

“Lisa’s very determined,” Annala said. “She gets that look on her face and that’s when you know she’s committed and she’s going to do her absolute best… you can see it in her. She has a quality that demands attention. Your eyes just go straight to her because she’s just so fun to watch.”

Annala also mentioned that she and Regan knew right away that her personality would fit right in with the team.

“She’s super easy going and just a fun kid,” Annala said. “She is just really enjoyable to be around. You can tell she loves what she is doing.”

O’Donnell said her coaches and teammates greatly help her career at UW-W.

“Coming here my coaches and my teammates especially, pushed me so much I was able to see my own potential because they saw it in me,” O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell mentioned how going Division I wouldn’t have benefitted her, as an athlete, as much as D-III. She said that the ’Hawks gymnastics team is known to be a teaching program.

Annala mentioned that DI schools tend to stick with the same routine and perfect it rather than teaching the athlete new skills.

Competing in gymnastics is not the only thing O’Donnell does at UW-W, as she also helps coach the “GymHawks” youth program on campus as well.

“She’s giving back by sharing gymnastics with the next generation, and the kids love her,” Annala said.

In addition to her gymnastics competing and coaching career, she still has to focus on her academics as well.

O’Donnell, as well as other UW-W athletes, stay on track to help out the athletes stay on track by creating mandatory study tables for incoming freshman as well as an option to be a part of the learning communities within the resident halls.

O’Donnell also lived with another gymnast her freshman year, so they would have similar schedules throughout the school year.

Making it through the stress of all of her commitments can be difficult for some athletes, so having a great support system can be a lot of help and she wasn’t lacking support whatsoever.

O’Donnell mentioned how great it was to be a part of a support system involving her teammates.

“I think all student athletes can relate that we’re spread pretty thin, but I think being a part of this atmosphere is great,” O’Donnell said.

It is easier for them to support each other because they all can relate to how hard it can be managing gymnastics, school, and free time.

O’Donnell not only had a tremendous amount of support in the gym, but also at home.

“Lisa’s parents come to a lot of her meets,” Annala said. “In fact, they flew all the way to North Carolina to find out the meet was cancelled.”

With that amount of support and her enjoyment playing the sport she loves, it is no wonder that O’Donnell’s season has gone so well in 2017, as she has won the all-around competition in five meets this

With the postseason beginning March 17, she will be expected to translate her success into winning for the Warhawks. There is no doubt she will be up to the task.