Defending state champion Donaghu's long road back to state

Defending state champion Donaghu's long road back to state


Defending state champion Donaghu's long road back to state


Ella Donaghu leads in the 800 meter race.

Ella Donaghu leads in the 800 meter race.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Grant runner Ella Donaghu is a two-time track state champion. Two months ago, it appeared she might not even have a season.

“At the beginning of the season I didn’t know if I would even be out here,” Donaghu said following her 800-meter race at the PIL district meet on Thursday. “Just to get a chance to run has been everything.”

Donaghu went to the doctor for what she called a “really sore throat.” She thought it was a lingering cold that would eventually go away. The doctor’s visit revealed that she had mononucleosis and had to stop running.

“At first I didn’t believe it,” Donaghu said. “I was really disappointed initially, but I knew with time that I could come back and be better than ever.”

When that time would be was an unknown. The defending 1500-meter and 3000-meter champion didn’t compete for nearly a month. Losing her junior season was becoming a greater possibility.

“There was a couple weeks where I was feeling pretty bad and we backed off,” Donaghu said.

However, Donaghu was determined to not let the illness take her away from the competition she loves.

“I told my coaches I don’t think we should say I’m not having a season yet because I really wanted to get out there,” she said.

After the two-week shut down period, Donaghu felt well enough to begin training again. She returned to the track on April 15 to compete in the 4 x 400-meter relay. The relay team qualified for state on Thursday.

She ran her first 800-meter on April 25, and returned to the one-mile and 1500-meter on May 1.

Donaghu has had nothing but success since returning to competition. The two-time 6A cross country state champion holds the top 800-meter and 1500-meter times in 6A. She has the second-best 3000-meter time.

“The fact that I’ve been feeling great in races is a bonus,” Donaghu said.

She also qualified for the state 800-meter and 1500-meter races on Thursday, finishing first in both finals with times of 2 minutes, 11.12 seconds and 4:35.78, respectively. She’ll run in the 800-meter and will not attempt to defend her 3000-meter title, due to an OSAA rule limiting how many distance races a runner can compete in.

“Even if I hadn’t been sick, the plan was to do the 800 and work on speed,” Donaghu said.

Donaghu is accustomed to longer races, as she also has two national top-ten cross country finishes on her resume. So, competing in the 800 presents some new challenges.

“You have to be really alert, its quick,” Donaghu said. “I like that you just get out there and race.”

Just two months after coming down with mono, Donaghu is in position to potentially add three more state titles to her long list of accomplishments.

“Having a sickness like that really gives you a lot of perspective,” she said. “Being at state this year is more than I could have imagined.”

Check out full results of the PIL district meet here.

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