Picking a college is tough for any student. When athletics are added to the equation it can make the decision nearly impossible. Evaluating the academic side of school with the athletic side can make for a very tough combination.
For sophomore gymnast Lisa O’Donnell, it took her until nearly the last possible moment to choose where she wanted to go.
“I chose Whitewater late in the game,” O’Donnell said. “I was already committed to La Crosse until I visited Whitewater and realized it was a better fit.”
It seems O’Donnell made the right decision in coming to UW-W considering the fact the ’Hawks just won the program’s fourth national championship in 2017. O’Donnell also won the award for female athlete of the year, nominated by the Royal Purple sports staff. She edged out senior soccer player Brianna Reid, and senior tennis player Megan Humphreys. But, these weren’t the only highlights from her terrific season.
O’Donnell claimed two individual national championships herself. O’Donnell was the national champion in the vault competition while also being the national champion in the all-around competition with a score of 38.225. O’Donnell was also the national champion runner-up in uneven parallel bars to cap her terrific sophomore season.
“I felt more comfortable my sophomore year,” O’Donnell said. “I knew the other gymnasts a lot better and already had a year under my belt. I felt really good knowing the coaches knew my style and that gave me confidence and contributed to this season being so successful.”
Even after having the fantastic individual season O’Donnell had, she couldn’t stop praising others for her accomplishments.
“A big reason for my success is the atmosphere at this school,” O’Donnell said. “My teammates and coaches believed in my potential, and I think them believing in me gave me the confidence to exceed expectations.”
O’Donnell’s success did not stem out of nowhere, as she has always had athleticism in her genes with her two older brothers being football players. But, she struggled to find her niche early on in life.
“When I was younger I got kicked out of ballet and karate,” O’Donnell said. “I didn’t listen very well, I always seemed to be running off and always doing my own thing. The coaches weren’t a fan of that.”
O’Donnell finally decided to start listening to her coaches and found her love in gymnastics.
O’Donnell’s hard work is not only shown through her success. It has seemed to have made a big impression on her teammates.
“Her drive and dedication is a huge part of her success,” junior gymnast Kate Mierow said. “Not many people have the self motivation that she has everyday. She has such a passion for gymnastics and it’s so evident watching her perform and practice every day.”
O’Donnell’s hard work and determination has made her a top gymnast in the country as a sophomore. If O’Donnell continues her success, she is destined to have her name in the rafters one day.