The Free Press, Mankato, MN


March 22, 2013

St. Peter's O'Connell making strides

MANKATO — For most of his first three seasons of track, St. Peter’s Sean O’Connell was pigeon-holed as a long distance guy. He was decent at it but, as the kids in his age group grew larger, O’Connell kind of stayed on the short side.

"Their strides were getting longer and longer and mine weren’t," he said Friday during a season-opening South Central Conference indoor track meet at Bud Myers Field House. "Finally, at the end of my freshman year there was a spot open in the 100-meter dash and I asked the coach if I could fill it."

It turned out to be a pretty good move as O’Connell finished second in the event, placing ahead of the Saints’ top sprinter. From that moment on, the long distances were history.

Last year, as a junior, O’Connell qualified for state in four events — the 4x200-meter relay, the long jump, the triple jump and the 100-meter dash. He’d love to do the same this year while improving in each event.

"Your goal is always to cut time in the running events and increase your distances in the jumps," he said. "Last year’s experience at state should help. It kind of motivates you to get back."

A couple of school records could be in O’Connell’s sights this year. He’s about two inches away in the triple jump and about two-tenths of a second off in the sprints.

In the fall, O’Connell is usually a soccer player but this season he decided to go out for football instead. His soccer experience served him well as he became the placekicker for the football squad.

When he goes to college next year, however, track will be his sport of choice. The front runners for his services are three MIAC schools — Gustavus Adolphus, St. Olaf and St. John’s.

"They all have beautiful campuses and they all have their pluses and minuses," he said. "I just have to keep looking at it and figure out what’s best for me."

O’Connell ended up having a pretty good day Friday, winning the long jump (19-feet-10), the 200-meter dash (24.1), the triple jump (41-0.5) and taking second in the 60-meter dash (7.3).

Blue Earth Area’s Nick Beattie won the 60-meter dash in 7.2. Teammate Brandon Olson shared the title in the pole vault with a height of 9-feet even.

St. James’ sprint medley relay team of Zwiel Chacon, Kody Curry, Noah Pinke and Carlos Marquez had a winning time of 4:03.9. The Saints’ Miguel Gonzalez tied for first in the pole vault (9-feet-0) and won the high jump (5-10).

Waseca was led by Shane Streich, who captured both the 1,600 (4:32.3) and 800 meters (2:04.9).

New Ulm’s 4x800 relay finished first as Blake Piotter, Riley Drahota, Matt Hartley and Aaron Stark combined for a time of 9:22.6.

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