Gig Harbor High School senior Taryn Donohue hadn’t raced competitively for about two years before last Thursday’s Class 3A South Sound Conference championship meet at Fort Steilacoom Park.
She broke her leg two years ago during a track workout and missed her entire junior season. She was ready for return for her senior cross country season, then pulled her hamstring at the beginning of the season.
So her first opportunity to race as an upperclassman came in the championships. She didn’t miss a beat, taking sixth overall with a time of 20 minutes, 48.4 seconds.
“I felt good,” Donohue said. “My legs were fine. I was kind of worried my hamstring would be tight but it feels good. I got out really well, which I usually don’t. So I was really impressed with that. It was good.”
It’s been a tough journey back from the broken leg.
“I have a metal rod in my leg now,” Donohue said. “I had to have surgery on it. So this race was super important to me.”
She’s been working hard on some different cross training to stay in aerobic shape.
“We just had to be real cautious with her,” Gig Harbor coach Andrew Walker said. “She was doing a lot of bike workouts and stuff in the pool. Then she had a setback with the hamstring issue. She healed up from that just in time for league.”
It’s Walker’s first season, so he hasn’t witnessed the whole comeback firsthand, but he’s been impressed with Donohue’s determination to make it back for the postseason in her final high school season.
“It’s really incredible,” he said. “To have her come back and not only just be able to race, but knock it out of the park, going out hard and having the confidence to hang with top girls, that’s really special.”
She’s gotten her first race out of the way. Now, Donohue actually has a legitimate shot to make the state meet. She’ll need to place in the top 42 at the district meet this weekend to qualify for the state meet in Pasco.
“That’s my big goal,” Donohue said.
A fine finish in her first race back was the first step. And it was a nerve-wracking one for the senior.
“I’m pretty sure my coaches and teammates can all tell you: I was a mess before the race,” Donohue said. “It’s just overwhelming. It’s really cool that I got to do this.”
Whether or not Donohue qualifies for the state meet, Walker already considers the comeback a success.
“I have to think if she runs how she did, she’ll have a fairly good shot (at making state),” Walker said. “We’re not super concerned about that though. Every race she gets in now, we’re going to see a lot of improvement from her.”
For Donohue, simply avoiding further injury is her top priority.
“I want to PR, but I just want to make sure that I stay healthy,” she said.
In the girls race, Peninsula took second as a team with 57 points, behind Central Kitsap (35). Junior McKenna Clark took seventh with a time of 20:54.2, while sophomore teammate Gabby Jensen took eighth at 20:56. Senior Grace Gaugen took 11th at 21:03 and sophomore Kara McKinney took 13th at 21:14.50.
For the Gig Harbor girls, junior Jessica Figgat finished 16th at 21:41.10.