Once a week, cross country runner senior Colton Donahue wakes up at five in the morning and heads out the door.
He runs through his neighborhood in the dark, his breath visible in the brisk morning air.
Donahue said these morning runs help him prepare for practice later in the day.
“I usually run five or six miles in the morning,” Donahue said. “Because then, when I go to practice, it’s kind of like I’ve already done something, so I have something more to do.”
Cross country runner senior Xavier Adams said this kind of self-motivation is something Donahue’s teammates can’t give him.
“[He] pushes himself to reach his goals,” Adams said. “His work ethic pays off when it comes to race day.”
Donahue and Adams have been teammates since seventh grade, but didn’t start training together until their sophomore year. Their training regimen includes a multitude of exercises, though not all are physical.
“[We] run in the morning and lift weights after school,” Adams said. “[We] joke around a lot and talk about the upcoming season.”
Donahue said Adams and his other teammates motivate him.
They push each other and try to beat each other for the last varsity spot.
“My teammates push me, help keep me motivated,” Donahue said. “I love cross country being a team sport; it gets everyone together and motivated.”
Coach Diana Huber said Donahue is also able to return the motivation to his teammates.
“He has shown that hard work does pay off and that they can go faster than they have been,” Huber said.
Adams said as serious as Donahue is, he still knows how to have fun.
“He has the right balance of fun and focus,” he said. “He can joke with you one second, but when it’s time to race, he is one of the most serious guys you will ever meet.”
Adams said he and Donahue also have good times off the courses.
“We enjoy hanging with our group of friends by playing basketball and football, Nazi zombies — [Donahue’s] specialty — Madden, eating copious amounts of espinaca at José Peppers, getting ice cream from [Dairy Queen] and Sonic after races, occasionally going to Subway, watching movies on Hulu Plus or Netflix, making waffles and milkshakes and making raps to make fun of each other,” Adams said.
Donahue ran track his first three years of high school and plans on running again this year in the spring. He only began running cross country last year as a junior.
“I decided to run because I enjoyed running track,” Donahue said. “I thought it could help me in my future track seasons.”
After high school, Donahue plans to run both cross country and track at Kansas State University.
He is still in discussions with the coach at Kansas State about a scholarship.
Donahue said while he has no preference between cross country and track, he believes the mental aspect of cross country makes it a harder race.
“It’s more mental,” he said. “You need a lot more mental toughness to run this race than any event for track.”
Donahue said he attributes part of his success to his rigorous off-season training.
“I ran pretty much every day, every morning,” he said. “On the weekends, I would do harder workouts and work on my speed and just building a good base going into the season.”
On Oct. 27, after months of training, Donahue became the new 6A Cross Country Individual State Champion. He finished the 3.1 mile race with a time of 15:22, missing his personal and school records by four seconds.
“I accomplished my goal,” Donahue said. “It feels awesome to be a state champion.”
Huber said Donahue is different from other successful runners because he realizes his talent level.
“I don’t think he doubts what he’s capable of,” Huber said. “When he’s at the starting line, he knows what he wants to do, and he’s going to get it. He’s going to fight harder than anyone to try to get to that point.”