NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Lady Pioneer star swimmer Lucia Donnelly won the ultimate college jackpot.

Donnelly, one the New Providence’s most decorated swimmers, decided to throw all of her recruitment chips in with one school and her gamble paid off.

Surrounded by family and friends wearing “Navy” blue, Donnelly signed her commitment to attend and swim for the United States Naval Academy beginning in the Fall.

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“I’m really excited,” Donnelly said last Wednesday at her official signing party. “[I’m
a little nervous because it's a totally different setting that what I’m used to, but I’m excited.”

Donnelly survived one of the toughest recruitments processes in college athletics – the U.S. Armed Forces. Only 7 percent of overall applicants get accepted to the Naval Academy, with the Air Force Academy and West Point averaging similar acceptance rates, according U.S. News’s college rankings.

When it came time for Donnelly’s college recruitment she went all-in on the Naval Academy and won.

“She’s just such a well-rounded kid that has a lot going for her,” New Providence girls’ swimming head coach Walter Kempner said. “I know when she made the decision to try and improve in swimming, she did. When she wants to do well in class or in a certain subject, she’s done that. When she’s pushing towards getting to the decision to be a part of the Naval Academy, she went for it.”

Donnelly ultimately made the decision to go to Annapolis in September following both an official visit last Fall and an unofficial trip last Spring, but she has been on Navy’s “watch list” since her freshman year.

Three and a half years later, Donnelly finally received the phone call of her dreams.

“I got the word when I was in class,” Donnelly said. “The coach had called me telling me I should be expecting [the acceptance package] in the mail. I couldn't stop smiling. I was over the moon excited about it. I called my parents and they started crying as soon as they found out.”

Despite her recent successes in the pool, the toughest laps are still to come. According to Kempner, the Midshipmen are on a different level then any swimming Donnelly has experienced.

“College swimming is a job,” Kempner said. “When you get to this level, a handful of New Jersey swimmers, as good as they are, get to swim in college at the level she is going to be at. Its incredible. I only think that with training and commitment to what she is doing there, she is going to continue to improve and drop times.”

Donnelly’s Navy career begins at the end of June when she reports for her “Plebe Summer,” an orientation of sorts that prepares all first year students for life at the Academy. Once the swim season starts, Donnelly said she is looking forward to pushing herself to new limits.

“I’m really looking forward to learning in that type of environment and swimming in a Division 1 program,” she said. “The girls that I have met are super supportive and did really well at championships. So, I’m really looking forward to that. Its going to really challenge me academically, so I’m looking forward to that.”