Anthony McDonough is proof that swimming isn’t a sprint and the rewards go beyond what the stop watch says or where you finish in a race.
McDonough is one of four captains on this year’s extremely talented Pioneer swimming and diving team. The Pioneers are undefeated and already have knocked off swimming powers and rivals Saline, Huron and Skyline, the defending Division 1 state champs.
But McDonough admits that it took some time for him to feel comfortable in the water. He started swimming when he was 7 years old for the Vets Park swim team but was never really serious about the sport until he arrived at Pioneer.
“I didn’t really know anyone my freshman year because I hadn’t played water polo that fall, and I had never done club swimming,” says McDonough. “Getting to know everyone was a bit difficult but I made it through and decided to give it a shot the next year.”
He’s glad he did as he not only began to fit in but find his place on a deck full of talented and dedicated swimmers.
“My sophomore year was better because I began to swim with some of the faster swimmers on the team during practice, and I saw significant time drops throughout the season,” he says.
Last year as a junior he says he “started to feel like and important part of the team.”
“I had made a lot more friends and the captains created a good environment for the team,” said McDonough. “I was hoping to get my first state cut my junior year, but I ended up not reaching that goal.
“That same goal carried over to this season. I am hoping to get a state cut in at least one event this year, and it would be great if I could get two.”
And the best way to accomplish that goal?
“I believe that if I push myself beyond what I think I can do in the next few weeks, then I can achieve my goals this year,” he said.
McDonough also started playing water polo in high school and this past season was one of the team captains. He’s also a captain on the swimming team, a role that he takes very serious.
“I think the atmosphere that the captains and the coaches create helps to keep the team moving forward with a serious and hard-working attitude, but still allows our team to have fun,” he says. “The team has always had a strong bond because of the hard work that we put in together, and I believe that this is why we are so successful.”
There also is the accountability factor. If you don’t put in the time and effort you are not only hurting yourself but your teammates as well – sort of an all for one, one for all approach.
“We all hold each other accountable during practices and meets, and trust that each and every person on our team will swim their race for the team,” McDonough says. “Swimming is all about doing your personal best to benefit the team. What I love about swimming is how individualized the sport is, but how it still remains a team-focused sport.”
The Pioneers have pretty lofty goals for this season and so far appear on course.
“We are hoping to win the SEC championship and place in the top three at the state meet,” McDonough says. “Our next big meet is coming up this Saturday against Brother Rice, currently ranked fourth in the state. Beating them would put us on track to place in the top three at states, and possibly even win.”
McDonough, the son of Lisa Hirsch and Tom McDonough, also excels beyond the pool. He has a 4.0 grade-point average in the classroom and has been a member of the Pioneer Symphony Band all four years at Pioneer. He has been playing the Alto Saxophone for seven years.
His lofty goals will continue to rise – perhaps even beyond the stratosphere – after high school.
“After high school, I am looking to study aerospace engineering at an undecided university,” he said.