Latrobe track star redifines 'team player'
When Kim McDonagh showed up for track practice during her sophomore year, her coaches quickly learned they had a multi-talented athlete.
McDonagh, a Boston native who moved to Latrobe with her family, had speed to go along with other abilities.
"She's one of those athletes that could be competitive in seven or eight events," Latrobe assistant coach Michele Butler said. "When she came to us as a sophomore, we had never heard of her and never seen her.
"Obviously, she's very fast and has a lot of speed, though it took us a little while to know her and figure out where she was going to best help our team."
Butler said the coaches soon discovered McDonagh was a pretty good hurdler when she was asked to run the 100 hurdles in a meet at Altoona as a junior.
"Kim wanted to run the hurdles without any practice," Butler said. "Against our best judgment, we allowed her, and she did well."
McDonagh did so well that she qualified for the 100-meter hurdles in the WPIAL finals and finished eighth. She also finished third in the long jump with a career best jump of 17-9 1/2 and qualified for the PIAA track-and-field championships. She struggled at the state meet with a jump of 14-10.
"My mom pushed me to do the hurdles; she said that I reminded her of one of her friends in college," McDonagh said. "I just love running the hurdles because it's something different."
The Latrobe coaches convinced McDonagh to try running the 300 hurdles this year.
Now, as a senior, she is one of the top 300 hurdlers in the WPIAL. She currently has posted the fastest time of the season, 45.2.
McDonagh recently was named most valuable performer at the Hempfield Lady Spartan Invitational after winning the 300 hurdles and the long jump. She also placed fourth in the 100 hurdles.
"I was happy with my record in the 300 hurdles," McDonagh said. "It's a new race for me."
Butler said the 300 hurdles might be her best event.
"She never liked running the longer races," Butler said. "She was more of a 100- and 200-meter runner. But we talked her into running the 300 hurdles, and her attitude has completely changed.
"... I think that's her event. She's a lot like Caitlin Hewitt was in the past -- we'd look at the teams we were running and figure out where her strengths were."
Hewitt went on to be a long jumper and pole vaulter at Stanford.
McDonagh has competed in 100 and 300 hurdles, 100, 200, long jump, triple jump, high jump and 400 relay. Butler said she might even run the 1,600 relay.
"Other than the distance races, there is probably not much she can't do," Butler said.
McDonagh, who plans to run track at either Boston College or Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., has competed in other sports in high school. She played volleyball in the fall and was the center for the Amateur Penguins girls ice hockey team.