Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Gia Doonan becomes second rowing athlete to be inducted into UT Hall of Honor

courtesy of Texas Athletics

Gia Doonan and the Texas rowing team were in England this past summer to compete at the prestigious Henley Royal Regatta when she received a phone call from Chris Del Conte. Doonan was confused, thinking she was in trouble or had done something wrong. But as soon as she answered the call, she was met with positive news, learning she was inducted into the 2023 University of Texas Hall of Honor. 

“It means a lot,” Doonan said. “This honor is an example of where our program was to where it is now, and this makes me feel a part of something successful and bigger than me.”

Doonan was a three-time first-team All-American and two-time Big 12 Conference Rower of the Year. She guided Texas to three top-eight NCAA Championship appearances. 

After leaving Texas, Doonan won gold in the four and eight at the 2016 World Rowing Under 23 Championships and finished second in the pair at the 2020 National Selection Regatta. She also represented the United States at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and credits her time at Texas as a big factor in making the team. 

“Even then, I hadn’t been to Texas since I graduated, but I brought my Texas uniform to not forget all the steps it took to get here and all the help I received,” Doonan said. “Texas was a huge part of that.” 

Doonan’s high school, Tabor Academy, required students to participate in three sports a year. She knew she was athletic, but it wasn’t until Doonan took a spring training trip to Austin in her freshman year that she knew she wanted to row.

“We had a spring training trip in Austin, and that is when I first got introduced to Texas rowing,” Doonan said. “The trip was very eye-opening, and when I became a junior and senior, I kept comparing all schools to Texas.”

While the Texas rowing program is now recognized as one of the top programs in the country, the program was not nationally ranked during Doonan’s freshman year. 

In Doonan’s sophomore year, the program went through a coaching change. Dave O’Neill took over as head coach, and one of his first calls was to Doonan that summer. O’Neill still remembers this call and what she was doing.

“I called her to introduce myself and it turned out she was in the middle of doing a pretty difficult conditioning workout getting ready for the year,” O’Neill said. “I was impressed with her as an athlete and person.”

Although Doonan was an incredible rower, O’Neill recalls her best attribute as being a leader and uplifting her teammates and coaches. Doonan has carried those skills over to her new role as an assistant coach for Texas. O’Neill believes this next challenge will be one that she excels in.

“She is smart, she cares, she understands the technical and psychological side of things, she is demanding, but she also has a sense of empathy,” O’Neill said. “She is already a very talented coach, and if someday she wants to be a head coach, she will be fantastic.”

Doonan and 10 other former Texas athletes will be inducted into the Hall of Honor on Sept. 15.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story attributed the last quote to Doonan which has been corrected to O’Neill. The Texan regrets this error. 

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