Donar bids adieu


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As the Iowa women gymnasts marched to the center of Carver Hawkeye Arena on Sunday hand-in-hand, Jenny Donar stood in the middle of the swarm, leading her team into roaring applause.

As the lone senior, the meet was, in a sense, celebrating her.

Donar greeted a dozen or so homemade signs decorating the arena in her honor. One read “Senior Solo Power” and another said “We Love Donar.”

Before the dual meet with No. 21 Southern Utah, Donar said she wasn’t sad about her final home meet, only excited. And anyone who knows the Cuba City, Wis., native would know that was the truth for the gymnast who seems to never stop smiling.

After the Hawkeyes upset the Thunderbirds by hitting all 24 routines and posting their highest team score of the season, 195.300, Donar’s eyes were as bright as the lights in Carver.

“I could not ask for a better senior night,” she said after the meet. “Words can’t even describe it.”

The academic All-Big Ten member hit a 9.700 on the vault and a 9.750 in the floor exercise.

Afterward, Donar received a bouquet of flowers, and an announcer read a statement over the PA system about her journey as a GymHawk. It began when she asked head coach Larissa Libby permission to walk on to the team four years ago.

Libby said yes, then gave Donar a scholarship as a sophomore. However, Donar reverted back to walk-on status in her two seasons as an upperclassman.

After the meet, Libby beamed for her only senior.

“She really brought her A game,” the head coach said. “A lot of times when you do Senior Nights, the emotion is so there that it’s hard for them to concentrate. I was very pleased for her that she had such a great night.”

Donar was not rattled by her emotions. Not even by the bus and three vanloads of 75 fans her parents brought from their hometown to cheer.

However, Donar admitted that at times, she was so excited she had to contain herself.

“It was actually more exciting because it was louder, and I love that,” she said.

Don and Deb Donar, a wrestling coach and gymnastics trainer, have traveled all over the country and to just about every Big Ten university to watch their daughter. Don Donar even bought an expensive camera to capture all of the moments.

“I’m excited and joyful,” he said. “It’s sad to come to an end. But watching her go and have fun, and staying injury-free is huge. It’s a dream come true to have your kid compete in D-I sports. It’s something that for any parent to sit back and absorb it — it’s unbelievable.”

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