Hanover Resident a Gymnast of Destiny
Destiny Donahue of Hanover, N.H., practices overshoots while training at Northern Lights Gymnastics in Wilder, Vt., on May 6, 2014. Donahue, a Hanover High sophomore, won the Vermont state title for her age group in the floor and placed third in all-around.(Valley News - Will Parson)
Destiny Donahue rehearses for the Northern Lights Gymnastics annual show in Wilder, Vt., on May 6, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)
Wilder — Not even a severe ankle injury could stop teen gymnast Destiny Donahue from being super again this season.
Donahue, 15, competed recently for Vermont’s “Super Team,” comprised of the state’s seven highest scorers regardless of age or division. The Hanover High sophomore earned a spot on the all-star unit for the second straight year by placing third overall at the Vermont State Championships in Bellows Falls in March.
All of the Super Team’s members participated at the USA Gymnastics Region VI Championships from April 26-27 at Woburn (Mass.) High School, where Donahue was the top Vermonter and seventh of 12 competitors in Level 8 — all part of Super Teams from their respective states. Region VI is comprised of New England and New York.
Donahue’s performance was highlighted by a score of 9.1 on the balance beam as she scored 8.4 or better in all four events. Her seventh-place showing was nine spots higher than last year, when she placed 16th of 19 13- and 14-year-olds at the Regional meet.
It was a successful end to an arduous season — or lack thereof — for Donahue, who badly sprained her right ankle landing awkwardly on the edge of a mat during a floor-routine practice at Northern Lights Gymnastics, where the Houston-area native has trained since moving to Hanover with her parents two years ago.
The setback happened in December, meaning a long winter full of rehabilitation and physical therapy, rather than competitions.
“I got hurt two days before the second competition of the year,” Donahue recalled before Northern Lights practice this week. “There was a lot of pain. I just kept thinking, ‘What am I going to do?’ It was a long road.”
Unable to do engage in many of the floor and vault exercises that impose pressure on the feet, the injury didn’t stop Donahue from honing in on upper-body strength, a key performance element for the beams and bars. Donahue attended physical therapy three times per week and worked diligently with Wayne Burwell, a Lebanon-based personal trainer, she said.
“It was really the running and twisting stuff that I really couldn’t do for a while,” Donahue said. “Anything where there (were moves that included) hitting a board or bouncing off my feet would be like, ‘Wow, that hurts.’ ”
Donahue derived solace from already having qualified for the Vermont State Championship meet, thanks to her strong performance in the November season opener at Northern Lights.
“That actually took a lot of the pressure off, because I knew I could just worry about getting better and not about making states,” she said. “The way I saw it was, I’ve just got to get stronger little by little.”
Donahue began to experience significant progress during late winter, and healed enough to take part in the state meet March 29-30 at Bellows Falls Union High. While earning fifth place in the vault and bars and a tie for sixth in the beams, Donahue dazzled in her favorite event, the floor.
Highly skilled in the choreography and grace demands of floor routines — a former middle school cheerleader, she’s been named second runner-up in the Miss New Hampshire Teen pageantry contest each of the last two years — Donahue earned a score of 9.5 for first place in the discipline and third overall.
While it was two spots behind her overall victory in the 13- and 14-year-old division at last year’s state meet, Donahue cherished placing so high among her top Green Mountain State peers.
“I was pretty proud of myself, to be within a couple places (of winning) when I hadn’t competed since December,” she said. “I was just glad I was able to compete in all four events.”
Donahue hopes to progress to Level 10 before graduating high school, then compete collegiately for an NCAA Division I program. Lofty goals, sure, but Northern Lights owner and coach Jill Vanderpot feels her trajectory is solid.
“She has the potential, ability-wise, and she’s very focused and self-driven,” Vanderpot said. “She wants it badly and she’s not afraid to do what it takes. She’s always making strides.”
Proud to hail from a club in Vermont, Donahue considers herself an ambassador for aspiring gymnasts from small areas.
“I like the idea of being a role model, to show that you don’t have to train in a big city to be a great gymnast,” she said. “I want to be someone who motivates the other girls (at Northern Lights).”
Jared Pendak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3306.