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Fabia McDonald’s track to the Hilltop was a grind

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Fabia McDonald, Bradley newest assistant coach is bringing a winning pedigree to the Hilltop. The former three-time Division I All-American for the University of Mississippi is going to focus on developing the sprinters and track program.

McDonald’s path is not what she imagined it to be as she was about to graduate high school.

“I wanted to go to school to be veterinarian, I didn’t care about anything else,” McDonald said. “I decided late in my high school career that I wanted to go and run track in college [as a senior].”

Through connections from her athletic trainer, she was able to reach out to the coach of Ole Miss’ track and field team.

“The coach replies and says, ‘You’re not good enough to compete for us,’” McDonald said.

That was all she needed to hear. She scoffed at the denial.

“I’m like … ‘Nobody can tell me anything,’ Especially how dedicated I am. I reached out to him for so long, for like five months,” she said.

Her dedication and persistence landed her a scholarship in the fall to be a heptathlete at Ole Miss, after three visits.

Being a heptathlete, McDonald had to compete in seven events in two days and sometimes competed in decathlons in two days. Despite that challenge, she went on to have an extremely successful career, academically and athletically, at Ole Miss.

“I ended up with a double major and double minor in business, social work and psychology and sociology,” she said. 

In 2011, McDonald was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman Field Athlete of the Year and became a team captain her sophomore year.

She was also named to the All-American second-team for pentathlon in 2012 and heptathlon in 2015. She also finished in the top-10 of the SEC Championship an impressive nine times during her career.

In 2014, she suffered a major setback: she broke her foot and had to take a redshirt year. During that season, she was a volunteer coach for the track and field team.

“I knew what I wanted to do at that point, I wanted to be a coach, counselor, mentor and that’s what got me here,” McDonald said. “It built a lot of character and made me very versatile moving forward into the workforce.”

After graduating, McDonald spent a year coaching young athletes in the AAU Track and Field Junior Olympics. 

She then went to Heidelberg University in Ohio to pursue s Masters of Business Administration and kept coaching sprint and jump teams as well.

“I was a full-time student and a full-time coach and I had a job as well,” McDonald said. “I had no choice. I had to pay bills, I had to make sure I stayed above a 3.5 cumulative GPA and I had to make sure I was coaching these athletes to be the best they can be.”

Despite having saturated schedules every day and nights full of tears, McDonald was dedicated to accomplishing what she had set out to do. In her two years, she had two athletes win Ohio Athletic Conference titles in sprint and jump.

McDonald ended up at Bradley this fall, a decision that was easy to make considering her Division I background. Head coach Darren Gauson was very praiseful of the new member of his coaching staff.

“We’re just really fortunate to have her here,” Gauson said. “She’s very intelligent, has her MBA, she’s a really good recruiter, was an incredible athlete in the SEC, so she just brings really everything to our group.”

McDonald’s main goal now is to recruit athletes that are similar to her: hard workers. She now instills that in her current student-athletes. With her passion and work ethic, McDonald seems prepared to keep climbing the echelons of athletic administration and grow the program.

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