Sophomore runner goes extra mile

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Sophomore Aubrey O'Connell races in the 5,000-meter competition. O'Connell won the state meet and was named "Athlete of the Year." "If there’s one thing I learned about Aubrey this year, is she’s got more fight than anybody, and she definitely proved that today," assistant coach Ty Morton said. "She was behind until about 200 meters left, and that other girl couldn’t handle what Aubrey was bringing with her."

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With everything she said she had in her, sophomore Aubrey O’Connell finished the 6A State Championship with a 5k race time of 17:06, placing first overall and making her No. 6 in the all-time state championship individual times history.

This year I struggled with living up to last year, but I think it has taught me to push harder, and I’ve learned there’s more I can do. Earlier this season, I sat out for three weeks because of my hamstring, so it was really a confidence booster to go out and win it all.”

— Aubrey O'Connell

O’Connell started her cross country and track career by breaking three school records her freshman year. Now, she is 19th in MileSplit’s national rankings.

“It’s good getting my feet wet and seeing what I can do,” O’Connell said. “This year I struggled with living up to last year, but I think it has taught me to push harder, and I’ve learned there’s more I can do. Earlier this season, I sat out for three weeks because of my hamstring, so it was really a confidence booster to go out and win it all.”

She received “Prosper Student Athlete of the Month” in November.

“I’ve seen her grow more as this has become something she is just super passionate about. It’s been great to see her grow into loving the sport,” Coach Jennifer Gegogeine said. “Her attitude is always focused and she works hard every day.”

O’Connell led the team through the Region II-6A XC Championship, placing first overall in this race, as well. 

“She’s always uplifting on the team, and she’s a good leader,” sophomore Sadie-Leigh Gonzales said. “Before a race, she likes to think about the positive things, and she helps everyone see the positives.”

The girls team placed third overall in the state championship, and 22nd in the Nike National championship. 

“First, I want to do it for my team, the better I can do individually helps my team,” O’Connell said. “It’s good to know that I’m leading by example and that once I leave when I’m a senior, people below me will take over and get our team to the state championship.”

O’Connell said she looks forward to a promising 2020 track season.

She’s got that special ingredient that no one really can label, she’s got something about her that I call ‘pure grit,’” Gegogeine said. “She’s intense and competitive, and when you combine that with her work ethic, it’s grit.”

Gegogeine said that during the state championship, O’Connell pushed herself into the lead during the last 200 meters.

“Every day we go out there and I know that us running together helps her get faster,” Gonzales said. “I can see the effort she puts into all the practices. She never cuts any corners and she’s always accountable. I feel like she’s very positive about everything.”

Gonzales said training with O’Connell has served as motivation.

“I think the rest of my high school career will hopefully go pretty well,” O’Connell said. “I think I still have more in me for the next two years. I want to win state in track this year, as well.”

O’Connell will have her image displayed on the MPF for winning the 2019 state championship.

“It’s going to be awesome to watch her accomplish more things these next couple of years in high school,” Gegogeine said. “It’s hard to predict, but if it’s going the way she is continuing to work with passion and interest in the sport, then she is going to set records.”