Arlington Bowie senior Carli McDonald has always shown a knack for outjumping and outrunning the competition. The track standout, though, has often struggled to outdistance her nagging doubts.
“I used to get in my head a lot,” McDonald said. If my jump in the morning didn’t go well, the rest of my meet I didn’t do well.”
Confidence wasn’t an issue last month at regionals. The senior finished second in long jump, earning her first-ever berth in the UIL Track and Field State Meet, which will take place Friday and Saturday at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin.
Her jump of 18 feet, eight inches (18-08) was short of the personal record of 19-01 that she set earlier this spring at the 4-6A district meet. But McDonald’s state-qualifying performance, in one of the state’s toughest regions, shows how far she’s come in her final high school season.
“I think Carli, if she sets her mind to it, is very capable,” Bowie girls track coach Doris Grooms said prior to regionals. “It’s just a matter of coming out there and doing what we need to do. We come from one of the toughest regions so, if she gets to state, she can do damage.”
She’s done plenty of damage in the season’s biggest meets. McDonald won long jump and the 200 meters at the district and area meets. The key to her success is her improvement as a learner and leader, according to her Bowie girls jump coach Shelena McGruder.
“Lately, I’ve noticed she starts to listen and comprehend what I tell her,” McGruder said. “She’s listening to what I have to say and then going and doing it. And the other girls are watching what she does.”
Her teammates have watched McDonald become noticeably better at her technique, particularly her approach run. She’s also learned to adjust to wind and other unfavorable conditions.
“She has had problems with her approach run every year,” McGruder said. “And this year we kind of focused on it solely and added other things into it. This year, she finally put it all together.”
But she’s not done improving just yet. McDonald’s going to continue fine-tuning her skillset at the next level. She plans to continue competing in track and field in college, preferably at a university where she can study veterinary medicine. She hasn’t narrowed down a college choice yet, but expects to receive attention from college coaches at state.
“I want to be a veterinarian,” McDonald said. “I always wanted to be ever since I knew what animals were.”
McDonald owns three dogs and used to have a gerbil. She almost had a fourth pet. McDonald spotted a rabbit hopping around in the grass at one of her track meets and wanted to keep it. But coaches and teammates convinced her not to take in the wild bunny. “We saw this baby rabbit,” McDonald said. “Why can’t I keep it?”
She’s done trying to catch wild pets, but McDonald still has a state medal to track down. Grooms is confident her star performer will be up to the challenge.
“I think she’s finally figured it out,” Grooms said.