Cami McDonnell didn’t set out to become a runner. Volleyball and soccer took most of her time as a younger athlete. But after some encouragement from her mother, who ran in both high school and college, McDonnell joined a running club.
“Once I came to high school, I decided…I wanted to try something new,” says McDonnell. “That’s when I decided running was going to be the end all for me, and I never looked back.”
The Mater Dei High School senior is a four-year varsity runner for the school’s cross country and track teams. Besides the physical benefits, McDonnell uses running as a stress reliever. And she feels the encouragement and positivity that exist among her teammates is unmatched.
“It’s an awesome way to decompress for me,” says McDonnell. “And the team atmosphere, I think, is like no other sport.”
In her second year as a captain for the Monarchs, the 18-year-old approaches the role as a servant leader, citing that she could never expect anything from her teammates that she doesn’t already do herself.
“Cami is a tremendous student athlete,” says Mater Dei head cross country and track coach, Rick Martinez. “She is not only hard working, but everything she does is at a very high level. Her effort, her focus and her energy are always at the level of excellence. She has been a tremendous team leader all four years.”
Each track season, McDonnell runs the 800 meter, 1 mile and 2 mile races, with the occasional appearance in the 4 x 400 meter relay. The distance events have become her favorites.
“I really love the distance events because…it’s just as mental as it is physical for me,” says McDonnell. “I love the challenge, and I love pushing myself.”
It’s the mental aspect of being a runner that has also been her toughest obstacle.
“Sometimes it’s so hard to believe in yourself and believe in your training,” says McDonnell. “You have to keep in mind your purpose. You’re doing it for your team and you do it because you love it.”
Outside of running, McDonnell is Mater Dei’s Head Campus Ministry Commissioner and serves her community through National Charity League. The Yorba Linda resident is undecided on her college choice but plans to study communications or business administration.
Self-discipline and learning to do “the little things” are much of what running has brought to McDonnell so far. With her mom as her number one supporter, McDonnell uses running to push herself in her faith and in life.
“My faith is a huge part of who I am and what my family stands for,” says McDonnell. “Having that faith as your core basis…and knowing that you can rely on God to get you through anything has helped me so much.”