Boys Cross Country

Wheeler's O'Shea not your average freshman runner

2012-10-05T21:00:00Z 2014-09-05T18:05:05Z Wheeler's O'Shea not your average freshman runnerJim Peters jim.peters@nwi.com, (219) 548-4363 nwitimes.com
October 05, 2012 9:00 pm  • 

At 6-foot-2, 165 pounds, Joel O'Shea strikes an imposing figure on hockey skates.

The Wheeler freshman has a presence about him in cross country spikes, too.

Built more like a defenseman than a distance runner, O'Shea is excelling whether he's gliding up the ice or around a course.

"We went to the semistate last year, watching (his sister) Kelly run," Wheeler coach Louie Guillen said. "We saw (LaPorte's Mitch) Hubner tackle the wind. He's naturally physically built and uses it to his advantage. We told him, 'Joel, that could be you.' It really helps having that build."

The second youngest child in a athletically-gifted family of 9, Joel has followed multiple siblings in his sports pursuits. Brother Tony played hockey at Mount Carmel (Ill.), while the aforementioned Kelly, a Wheeler junior, was a state track qualifier in the 800 last year. Sister Maggie also ran for Wheeler and brother Sam, a Bearcats football and baseball star, played hockey until eighth grade.

"It's pretty even between hockey and running," said Joel, who plays hockey with Crown Point's high school club team. "I get a lot of that, people always telling me to play football. I've just never had the drive for it."

Not that his initial experience with running back in fourth grade was especially memorable.

"I wanted to get stronger for hockey," O'Shea said. "The first time, I was with Kelly, I was dying. It was awful."

Things quickly improved for Joel. He was the seventh grade conference champion and finished second to classmate Tommy Martin, now at Portage, last year.

"Our middle school coach was out sick, so I filled in with the team," Guillen said. "We knew Tommy was good and once we saw Joel could run with Tommy and almost beat him, we knew he had potential."

Whenever O'Shea's sports might overlap, the nod goes to running.

"It's something he loves to do," Guillen said of hockey. "I just caution him to be careful. He's really good about that stuff. If something's bothering him, he'll back off it. He's a kid who's smart about his body."

The transition to high school has been a smooth one. O'Shea stepped in from day one as the top runner on a solid Wheeler squad.

"I wasn't too sure. I just came into the season to see what I can do," he said. "Then my teammates were telling me how I was running as fast as Kyle Nurse last year."

Nurse qualified for state as a Wheeler senior in 2011.

"Joel's learned a lot from Kyle," Guillen said. "He saw everything he did last year. He talks with him a lot. Given the fact that he's running times that Kyle did his senior year and he only being a freshman, he's getting a good head start. That success can translate to Joel. It's keeping him motivated. He can do great things the next three, four years."

Right now, both are only thinking as far ahead as Tuesday's Chesterton Sectional, where the Bearcats are in the hunt for a team berth.

"If Joel runs well individually and gets a low stick for us, everybody else will fall into place as we go on," Guillen said.

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