Leah O’Connor did something Sunday that has never been done, and while it’s not wise to say never in the world of sports, let’s just say it’s not likely we see a bunch of 1,500/steeplechase/5,000 triples at Division I conference meets in the near future.
Her winning three Big Ten titles for Michigan State was incredible, and everyone who was watching it knew it was. People don’t run those three races, and they certainly don’t win all of them if they do. And they most definitely don’t dominate them if they happen to win them.
O’Connor did that, and the Blue Water Area should take a lot of pride in the fact that she is from here.
The area has turned out plenty of great athletes, but O’Connor is making her way to the top of that list. Give her a few more years, and she could be sitting alone atop it. She’s great enough that when you bring up the thought of her being an Olympian, it doesn’t seem absurd at all. In fact, it seems like the next step.
So to expect that we will see someone else like O’Connor come from the Blue Water Area any time soon seems foolish.
That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t athletes here with that kind of potential. In fact, you don’t have to look any further than track to find at least four of them.
We’ll start with the one easiest to draw a parallel with, Rachel Bonner. The Port Huron junior has already run faster than O’Connor did in the 1,600 and the 5,000 (cross country) meters as a high schooler. She’s shown an incredible dedication, a great blend of speed and endurance, and gets better seemingly every time she steps on the track.
O’Connor has a stride length that Bonner does not, and that potential was surely seen by Michigan State coaches. But most girls Bonner races against now have a stride-length advantage on her as well. She’ll surely get a shot at a big-time program.
A lot of what I just wrote about Bonner could be said for Algonac junior Morgan Beadlescomb. He’s a reigning state champion in cross country, and has run Division 2’s fastest times in the 1,600 and 3,200 this season.
This past Friday, he ran the 3,200 in 9 minutes, 28.24 seconds, and did it basically on his own. About 20 minutes later, he ran the final leg of Algonac’s 1,600 relay and managed to run a split of 49.9 seconds.
“Morgan, you are not human,” Algonac coach Kurt Welchner told him afterward. Like Bonner, Beadlescomb will be given a chance to run at the Division I level.
Two area pole vaulters have already signed with Division I schools, and have very bright futures ahead of them as well.
While Port Huron Northern’s Mackenzie Shell and Algonac’s Mitchell Mueller won’t be pulling off stunning triples like O’Connor did, they have potential to compete for national titles one day in the pole vault. Mueller has cleared 16 feet, 4 inches this season, which is more than a foot better than anyone in the state. Shell is at 13-9, which is the third best in the country, a foot better than the rest of the state, and a vault that would rank her in the top 30 among the state’s boys.
We may never see another Leah O’Connor. That type of athleticism and determination doesn’t come around often. But the fact that there are people here even with that potential is pretty amazing.
Contact Paul Costanzo at (810) 989-6251 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PaulCostanzo.