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St. Marys swimmer McDonnell makes Wright choice
From left, Tracey McDonnell, Craig Norman and Dan McDonnell all witnessed St. Marys of Stockton senior Austin McDonnell sign his National Letter of Intent to attend Wright State in Ohio on Wednesday. - photo by JOHN-JOEL GRIFFITHS

Austin McDonnell’s future looks bright.

Not just in the swimming pool, but in the classroom as well.

The Manteca resident and St. Mary’s of Stockton standout signed his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday and is headed to Wright State University (Fairborn, Ohio) on partial scholarship.

“(The scholarship) is mainly athletic with a little bit of academic added,” he said. “I’m still waiting to hear back from the engineering department.”

The former Manteca Dolphin youth swimmer is currently in the top-10 percentile of his ‘13 graduating class academic-wise. McDonnell boasts a GPA a bit above 3.8 and will be accepted into Wright State’s computer science and engineering program this fall, according to his mother, Tracey.

“It’s been a great experience for him (at St. Mary’s),” she said. “He’s taken honors and AP classes and excels academically and athletically. He’s also been able to swim for the high school and holds some of the records there.”

During McDonnell’s sophomore year, he broke the St. Mary’s High School 500-yard freestyle record and added his name to the annals.  During his junior season, he set the record twice by breaking his own mark set a year ago with a new 4:58.45 -- about 18 seconds slower than his eventual showing at last year’s section championship meet.

“It felt really good (to break the school record),” said, McDonnell, who took seventh at the 2012 section meet (4:41.02). “That was really big for me. And also just being a sectional swimmer for my quad team has been a great honor.”

At the 2012 Tri-City Athletic League swim championships, McDonnell was a member of the winning 200 freestyle relay team as he helped the foursome record a 1:31.29.

The long-distance swimmer will specialize in the 500 free at the collegiate level. McDonnell will also be looking to make a better showing at this year’s sectional meet now that it’s his final year competing at the high school level.

This year’s sectional meet will be May 2-5 at Johansen High in Modesto.

McDonnell also experienced plenty of success swimming for Coach Craig Norman and Tiger aquatics of Stockton. Norman took over the reins of the Tigers after McDonnell’s freshman year of high school.

McDonnell had also been showing some interest in South Dakota State, UOP, Seattle University and Cal Poly. However, his ultimate goal was to compete at the Division I level.

“I really love the school, all the people and the coaches,” McDonnell said. “I went there and got to go see some classes and it just felt like I really fit in with the atmosphere.

“(The swimming team) is fairly competitive. They had a really young team this year and my goal is to be on a championship-winning team.”

Wright State’s last Horizon League title in swimming was 2008.

“Personally I would like to get a (HL) championship and be competitive,” McDonnell concluded. “My main goal is to win a conference title in an event.

“I just want to major in mechanical engineering and get the feel for it and learn as much as I possibly can. I definitely have to thank all my friends and family for being there for me the last four years.”