JOHN KOVACH | Colleges Donchess reserves a spot in Boston

Determination and perseverance have enabled Jeff Donchess of Poland, a senior at North Carolina State, to complete a marathon on his first try and qualify for the Boston Marathon.
Donchess, 20, a member of the North Carolina State track and cross country club team, used pure grit to complete the Walt Disney World Marathon, held two weeks ago in Orlando, Fla.
He struggled toward the end of the 26.2-mile race but managed to finish in 3:07:14 to place 99th out of 13,000 runners and qualify for the Boston Marathon in April. He was seventh in his age group (19-24).
"I didn't think I was going to make it," admitted Donchess, whose longest previous distance was 16 miles in training, and his longest prior race a half-marathon (about 13 miles). "That's [after 16 miles] when I was really hurting."
He believes he went out too quickly. "I ran out faster than I should [and] when I got to the 14-mile mark my legs and everything kind of locked up. At that point, I just kept going. Everything kind of tightened up, and then at the 19-mile mark my hamstring tightened up."
Persevered: But Donchess didn't give up. "My pace kept getting slower, and at mile-22 my quads tightened up and then I felt like I didn't have any legs, and then from there I don't even know I how I finished."
Although what he did was an achievement, he said other runners have done the same thing on their first attempt.
"It depends on your condition and how old you are," said Donchess, who wasn't satisfied with his time. "It was a bad time as far as I was concerned. I was hoping for 2:55. But I met my goal by qualifying for Boston."
A 1999 graduate of Poland High, Donchess has been with the college club team since its inception two years ago as an unofficial club sport founded by Ted Willis. It became an official club sport at the start of the 2001-02 school year and now has 38 members.
A leader: Donchess serves as the club's treasurer and helps to make the schedules for cross country competition in the fall and track in the spring.
"We run against other clubs from other schools," said Donchess, who holds two club records -- the 10,000-meter run in 37:26 and the half-marathon (1:22.19), both set this past fall.
"[The club] is open to students, staff members and faculty," he said. "We collect dues from all the people who are members. We get donations. Some of the money comes from the school."
Turning point: Donchess said that completing his first marathon marked a turn in his running career, and that after the upcoming track season he will begin to emphasize competing in longer distances.
Already, his next race will be the Myrtle Beach Marathon on Feb. 9, but he will do only a 5-mile leg as part of the club's relay.
However, after he runs in the Boston Marathon, "I hope to run in the New York Marathon in October."
Has 3.3 GPA: The son of Jody and John Donchess, Jeff has a 3.3 grade-point average majoring in statistics, with a minor in economics, and is planning to graduate in December. He has been on the Dean's List two semesters.
While at Poland High, he was a 1999 state qualifier in the 4x800 relay and an All-Metro Athletic Conference pick in three sports -- track (1999), soccer (1998) and tennis (1998). He also lettered in cross country (1998).

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