Christina Donall created memories for herself and her father this spring.
Donall is one of the top track and field athletes in Atlantic County and a talented musician. The Mainland Regional High School senior won the discus and finished second in the shot put at the Atlantic County championships last week. Donall rushed from the meet to marching band practice.
She has overcome heartache and sorrow to succeed this school year.
Her father, Ed, was injured a car crash last August. Christina said he nearly died.
"He was in a coma for three weeks," she said. "The day before my senior year started, they told us he had 24 hours to live."
Ed, 53, survived and is home recovering, but Donall said he has some memory loss.
"He can't remember anything back 7 or 8 years," she said. "I've been trying my best through track and band to recreate all the memories for him. He has motivated me so much. I want to make him happy and help him try to remember."
Donall, 17, who lives in Northfield, plays four instruments - the clarinet, baritone horn, trombone and tenor sax. She is the assistant drum major of the Mainland Regional marching band and belongs to other school bands.
School, track and field and music keep her busy. One place she can't be found is home sick. Donall hasn't missed a day of school since kindergarten.
Donall will attend Towson University in Maryland on a partial track and field scholarship. She will major in music education. The only child of Ed and Annmarie, she maintains a 4.7 grade-point average.
In a telephone interview Tuesday night, Donall discussed several topics, including how she balances her busy schedule and her perfect attendance record.
On how she got started in track and field: When I was younger, my cousins who lived in Toms River were always into track and field, and they mainly did the shot put and discus. It wasn't family pressure but influence. But it didn't really click for me to do it until seventh grade when my gym teacher at Northfield Community School pushed me to do it.
On how much technique is involved in throwing the discus and shot put: Technique is 50 percent of your ability to throw. You need strength, but if you don't have technique you will not improve. It takes years to get it down. I'm still learning.
On how she got involved in music: In fourth grade, I started playing the clarinet. No one in my family is really musical, so I thought it was different. In eighth grade, I wanted to try something new, so I started playing the saxophone. I realized it was pretty easy to switch instruments, so every time a teacher asked me to switch for their band I just picked up the instrument, learned it and kept with it.
On being in the Mainland marching band: Marching band is probably my favorite activity. You have the competitive side and you have the fun side.
On the similarities between track and field and music: You have to pay attention to detail. You have technique for playing instruments and you have technique for throwing. Also, you have to love what you do. If you didn't love it, you wouldn't want to improve and you wouldn't succeed.
On how she balances sports, music and academics: I'm still kind of figuring that out. I just somehow do it. I'll have track practice until 5 o'clock, have marching band at 6 o'clock and then come home and do homework. You just have to push yourself through. I've always been told if I didn't keep my grades up, I couldn't do what I wanted to do. Marching band and track are a big part of my life, so I make the time for school. I study at lunchtime, 10 minutes on the bus ride to school, or when I get home at night I stay up an extra hour. Either way I will have it done.
On never missing a day of school since kindergarten: Once I hit seventh grade, I said, 'I might as well (keep perfect attendance) for my eighth grade. When I got to high school and I saw how rare it was, I kept sticking it out. I'm not a person who gets sick. I've been majorly sick once or twice and that was always during the summer.
On what she does to relax: I hang out with my dog (Patches, an Old English Sheepdog), family and friends.
On taking Patches to visit patients at Linwood Care Center: We've been going the past couple of years for volunteer hours for the National Honor Society. They see the dog come in, and they'll say, 'It's Patches!" It's like the highlight of their day when they see him. He'll kiss their face or sit there real nice while they pet him.
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