Prepspot: Craig's Donagan stands alone

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John Barry
Sunday, September 17, 2017

JANESVLLE--Erin Donagan will leave Janesville Craig as the most decorated girls swimmer in school history.

The senior holds seven of the 11 school records and had a pair of top-six finishes at last year's WIAA Division 1 state meet.

She has her sights set even higher this season. Along with a return trip to state in the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke, Donagan wants to get one, or possibly two, relay teams through, as well.

“I feel like I'm really focused on the season because I know it's my last at Craig,” Donagan said. “I've worked really hard, especially on my upper-body strength, which is so important in the butterfly.

“I try not to think about hitting a certain time when I'm swimming because I tighten up. It's more about working on technique.”

Donagan is one of the top all-around swimmers in the state, a scholastic academic all-American and is being heavily recruited by a number of Division I schools. She spent this weekend in Toledo, Ohio, where she took her official campus visit to the University of Toledo. She said she's enjoying the various campus visits and is not close yet to choosing a school.

Thanks to the influence of her cousin and former Milton High and University of Wisconsin swimmer, Jennah Haney, Donagan first hopped into the pool as a 10-year-old. She didn't begin to swim competitively until she was 12 and did not make an immediate splash.

A year-round commitment to the sport and joining the J-Hawks swim club team started her down the path to success. She currently is a member of the McFarland Spartan Sharks club team and often practices in the morning in the Craig pool before heading to McFarland after school for another workout.

Craig first-year coach Jonathan Hopkins said Donagan is the ultimate teammate and student-athlete.

“To do what she does, as far as training twice a-day along with being a great student, really puts things in perspective,” Hopkins said. “She's probably taught me more than I've taught her because I see how her plan is coming together to get the most she can out of her senior year.

“She's a captain and an outstanding leader. The kids really look up to her, because they see that when she gets in the water she knows what works best for her and has a real sense of what she's doing. And she's always willing to go that extra mile to get the best results she can.”

Donagan holds the school record in the 200 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 100 backstroke and 100 breaststroke, and she was on the school-record-setting 200 medley, 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relay teams.

At last year's state meet, Donagan was third in the 200 IM and fifth in the 100 breaststroke. She's worked hard on backstroke and butterfly, the strokes that begin the 200 IM, because she knows the last two strokes in the event—breaststroke and freestyle—are her specialties.

“I've had to work really hard on the fly because it's not a natural stroke,” Donagan said. “It takes a lot of rhythm and upper-body strength.

“Most of the strokes you can muscle your way through, but not with breaststroke. That's more about the feel, and to me it came naturally.”

Donagan has an excellent chance to finish in the top three at state in both events. Three of the five swimmers that finished ahead of her in the 100 breaststroke graduated, while last year's runner-up in the 200 IM also graduated.

It would only be fitting for Donagan to make one final splash as the school's greatest female swimmer.

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