West Aurora's Donatlan chooses Wyoming
The legend of Camron Donatlan was forged as an underclassman at the boys Class 3A state track and field meet in 2016.
The now West Aurora senior did not even go out for track as a freshman.
West Aurora coach Cortney Lamb did not know what to expect when Donatlan made his sophomore debut at the Upstate Eight Conference indoor championship at Batavia two-plus years ago.
Lamb decided to try Donatlan in the high jump.
The varsity champion in the UEC high jump that night cleared 6 feet, 4 inches.
Donatlan breezed to the frosh-soph title at 6-8.
Only weeks later, Donatlan won the state championship in the event at Eastern Illinois University with a clearance of 6-10.
The response from several local track and field coaches was virtually identical when asked if they could ever recall an individual starting off the year on the underclass team and winning a state championship.
"I have never heard of anything like it my life," Geneva boys track coach Gale Gross said at the time.
"I looked it up in the archives just out of curiosity," West Aurora graduate and longtime Aurora Central Catholic boys track coach Troy Kerber said. "In the history of IHSA track, there is no one who has ever done that before. To start off the year on the sophomore team and win a state championship? It's amazing. It could be a movie script."
"It didn't make me look like a very smart head coach," Lamb said.
"(My reaction was) it begins and ends with a 'Wow,' " West Aurora athletic director Jason Buckley said of the accomplishment.
In an era in which specialization has been widely lamented by high school coaches, Donatlan is truly the antithesis.
"Eight," Donatlan said Thursday afternoon during the West Aurora boys basketball practice on the number of career varsity football games he has played.
But the two-time high jump state champion and four-year basketball starter turned eyes in his limited football career.
"The guy from Wyoming who was recruiting (Donatlan) said it was the best tape he has seen all year," West Aurora football coach Nate Eimer said.
Donatlan verbally committed earlier this week to play football in the fall and perform track in the spring for the Cowboys.
"I want to be able to show people what I can do at the D-I level," Donatlan said at basketball practice. "That was a big factor (to play both sports). That's what I like. I like to be involved."
Legendary West Aurora boys basketball coach Gordie Kerkman had Donatlan as a freshman in his final year.
Kerkman is an Iowa native.
"He is quite an athlete," Kerkman said of Donatlan. "I couldn't be happier for him. As a Hawkeye fan, I was really hoping Iowa would go after him. Like the Bears, their wide receivers never seem to be able to get open."
Despite his verbal pledge, Donatlan said his telephone is still ringing from prospective suitors.
"Michigan State contacted me the other day," Donatlan said on Thursday.
Lamb said it is similar to fishing in a barrel with an athlete like Donatlan in the fold.
"It's so easy when you have outstanding athletes like him," Lamb said.
"He is the best natural athlete I have ever coached," Eimer said. "Football isn't even his best sport. He needs to go to school to continue his track career. That's his best sport."
"He could be an Olympian," West Aurora boys basketball coach Brian Johnson said of his leading scorer.
"There's no question (Donatlan) has that kind of potential," Buckley said.
"I don't know what my ceiling is (in the high jump)," Donatlan said.
A scary thought, indeed.