Green Hope’s Maura McDonnell a player of the year

tstevens@newsobserver.comJune 8, 2013 

  • Maura McDonnell Green Hope

    Why Mo? 16 varsity leaders; 12th, fifth, fourth and third in NCHSAA 4A cross country during career; 1,600 indoor NCHSAA champion in 2013; distributed 27 assists for undefeated NCHSAA 4A girls soccer champion

    College: East Carolina

    GPA: 3.8

    Parents: John and Beth McDonald

    Favorite book: “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee

    Hardest subject: Science

    Fun is: Being with family and friends

    Favorite subject in school: History

    Inspiration: My parents

    Childhood toy: Barbie dolls

    Biggest thrill: Learning to snowboard

    Best moment in your sports career: Green Hope winning state cross country championship as a freshman when we were underdogs

    Success is: Shalane Flanagan

    Ideal guest list: Sandra Bullock, Alex Morgan, Victor Cruz

    Most satisfying win: 1,600 indoors this season

    After a win, I like to: Congratulate my competitors

    Slogan: Success requires hard work

    Proud of: My teammates who helped me become the athlete that I am

    Best place to run: Asheville at cross country camp

    Favorite food: Filet mignon

    People think: I am the girl that never stops

    But I really: Like some down time

    Biggest disappointment: Losing in state soccer finals my junior year

    The word: Competitive

Maura “Mo” McDonnell is known as the girl who will not stop.

She has raced through high school in a blur from the time she entered Green Hope High in Cary four years ago.

McDonnell graduates with 16 varsity letters, four each in cross-country, indoor track, soccer and outdoor track. She played on five state championship teams, won an individual state title and played on a girls soccer team that was ranked No. 1 in the nation.

McDonnell joins Ravenscroft’s Wesley Frazier, a five-time national track champion, as The News & Observer High School Athletes of the Year.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Mo standing still,” said Wayne Bragg, Green Hope’s athletic director. “I roam around after school, checking facilities, watching games or practices, and I’d always see Mo.

“I’d see her on the track now and at soccer practice later. I’d see her running right after school and I’d see her still running an hour later. Or I’d see her changing from running shoes to cleats or running from one practice to the next.”

McDonnell, like Frazier, made her mark in distance running.

McDonnell finished 12th, fifth, fourth and third in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A girls cross-country championships during her career and led the Falcons to the state title each year.

She also won the 1,600-meters championship in the 2013 NCHSAA indoor track finals after being runner-up the year before in the 1,000.

McDonnell also is a soccer standout. She is Green Hope’s career leader in soccer assists and played on back-to-back teams that were undefeated when they entered the NCHSAA 4A championship game. The 2012 team lost in the finals, but this year’s team won the crown and finished the season ranked as the nation’s finest.

McDonnell did all that, and maintained a 3.8 overall grade point average, with only a very few days of being overwhelmed and wondering why she subjected herself to such demands.

Looking back, it seems like a pretty normal high school career to her.

“If I could do it all over again, I would,” McDonnell said. “I missed out on a few things – mostly social things – but nothing to compare with what I got to do.”

There were times during her career when she considered making changes in her regimen. She had convinced herself one year that she was not going to run indoor. No way. She was going to take some time off. The transition from cross-country to indoor track was too difficult. She wasn’t going to do it again.

But she did.

Soon after starting training seriously, she questioned her involvement in cross country and track for a bit. “I was so anti-running for a while,” she said. “But I give a lot of credit to my teammates. They helped me.”

She also pondered occasionally whether she would be more successful if she concentrated on fewer sports. She knew a girl who gave up soccer and got faster. “But not that much faster,” she said.

Besides she had played with many of her Green Hope soccer teammates since she was 5 years old. They were her friends.

Wherever she felt overwhelmed, her distance training mentality kicked in. She decided she needed to take one step at the time, just like she does while running on a trail, an indoor track, an outdoor track or on a soccer field. She couldn’t do it all at one time, but could keep taking the next step.

Green Hope has one of the largest cross-country teams in the country with more than 245 runners, but coach Mike Miragliuolo said McDonnell stood out from the beginning.

“Mo has been a star athlete since she entered Green Hope,” Miragliuolo said. “More than that she has been mature beyond her years and a stabilizing part of the cross-country team.

“Mo never seems to get too high or too low. Occasionally she would get a little down if she thought she could have performed better or let the team down, but she took her success in stride.

“She never sought out attention and is just as happy to deflect any credit to teammates. So many athletes in today’s world are all about themselves, but Mo is almost embarrassed by her success.”

Bragg, the school’s AD, said McDonnell’s individual indoor championship in the 1,600 brought a lot of smiles at the school.

“I’ve learned that in today’s language you don’t say someone is popular; there’s too much baggage,” Bragg said. “But Mo is one of the most liked and respected people in school.

“She has done so much for her teams and for her school. I think all of us were glad when she got the individual title.”

McDonnell said it was a thrill. She had wondered if she’d ever win an individual title. But she wouldn’t trade one of the team titles for another individual championship.

She likes it exactly the way it has turned out.

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