At the team’s most recent meet, the Eastern Championships, Donchi swam the lead-off backstroke leg of the 200-Medley Relay and third leg of the record-breaking 400-Freestyle Relay, which secured a combined victory for Andover. Both swims, in addition to his individual swims in the 100-Butterfly and 100-Backstroke, earned Donchi All-American status.
During his time on the team, Donchi has never specialized in just one event.
“[My best event has] changed season by season. I was All-American in [the 100-Yard Butterfly], so that was cool. Last year, I focused more on distance freestyle, but this year I volunteered to do what the team needed to fill in just because of the class we lost last year,” said Donchi.
Donchi attributes his exponential success over the past few years to his natural development as an athlete, his focus during practices, and Head Coach David Fox’s leadership.
“Coach Fox is really great because he knows exactly what he is doing, so I think having that and a change of scenery has been really good… I guess just being consistent [is my goal]… [My strength is] just working hard. You know, a lot of people get burnt out in the sport, not here, and they end up messing around at practice. So, I think I’m good at focusing at practice, dedicating that time to swimming,” said Donchi.
According to teammates Trey Wolfe ’23 and Yubo Jin ’21, who was a member of the All-American medley relay with Donchi this past weekend at Easterns, Donchi sets a standard for dedication to the sport.
“He’s never late to practice. He works harder than probably anyone else on the team. He knows what he is doing, and he makes sure that everyone else is doing the right thing too, so he looks past himself,” said Wolfe.
Jin wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “Sam’s grit and dedication is second to none. He will always choose the hardest times to complete the set in, while the rest of us tackle easier paces. During training, when I am struggling to push past the pain, I can always think about Sam and know that he is working just as hard or even harder than me because he has the toughest set.”
Donchi believes that he is able to improve because of his focus on improving his fundamentals. According to Jin, Donchi places an emphasis on technique and smaller details while still pushing himself in difficult workouts.
“Sam’s grit and dedication are the fundamentals of any good swimmer, but Sam is also extremely diligent when it comes to technique. A lot of times, especially when you are tired, your technique will start to fall apart and your stroke will become a lot less efficient, however, this rarely happens to Sam as he is able to pay attention to the minor details even during extreme conditions and it is what makes him so good,” wrote Jin.
One of Donchi’s primary goals as captain is validating all swimmers for their individual successes, no matter their overall contributions to the team.
Donchi said, “[My goals are] making everyone feel important on the team, and they’re are a lot of people who think because they are not winning events, they’re not important. It’s not really about speed, it’s more creating a culture that allows everyone to be successful in reaching their individual goals and their team goals. So, [my goal], it’s to set that culture.”
According to Jin, Donchi maintains a strong leadership presence while also treating his teammates like friends.
Jin wrote, “Sam’s best trait as a leader is his ability to inspire others both as a friend and a role model. Often times, especially during practice, I will look to Sam to see whether I am where I need to be in regards to the effort put in. Not only that, but he also takes his job very seriously. During team meetings, Sam will call you out if you are speaking out of turn but everyone respects him for it as it is what a good leader does.”
Editor’s Note: Yubo Jin is a Multilingual Editor for The Phillipian.