Girls track | State preview

Wheeler's O'Shea returns to state finals in 800 meters

2013-05-30T17:00:00Z 2013-05-31T01:04:40Z Wheeler's O'Shea returns to state finals in 800 metersJim Peters jim.peters@nwi.com, (219) 548-4363 nwitimes.com

There was a time when Kelly O'Shea did her best running around the bases rather than a track.

As a freshman at Wheeler, she played softball in the spring, calling it her No. 1 sport. But as her cross country star continued to rise, her interests began to change.

"I stopped liking softball; I really started to like running more," O'Shea said. "Softball, you travel every weekend. I knew I wasn't going to play it in college. Running's an individual sport. You can go as far as you want to go."

Last season, O'Shea opted for track, qualifying for state in the 800 meters, and her future course was set. She stopped playing softball in the summer to focus further on running.

"Her freshman year, I advised her to do softball," Wheeler coach Rhonda Anderson said. "She's played softball all her life and she loves to run as well, but trying to do both at the same time is too big of a hassle. I guess her cross country success probably played a role. It enhanced her love of running, as success tends to do, and she made the decision that she wanted to do track."

On the oval, the only dilemma Anderson has — and it's a good one to have — is where to put O'Shea. She could realistically have success in any event from the 100 to 3,200.

"She has really good speed," Anderson said. "She can run the four-by-one. She's that fast. She's a coach's dream. She does whatever you ask with no complaints."

O'Shea has run legs on all three relays. She raced the 1,600 this season only once, winning the Greater South Shore Conference title. The 800, a hybrid sprint-distance event, has become O'Shea's favorite.

"It’s like a long sprint," she said. "You run the first lap, then you get to the (last) 300 and just go."

That's how it played out in the Chesterton Regional, where O'Shea clocked 2:20.24 to top the field, just as she had told Anderson she would a few days earlier.

"I ran fresh, which made a difference," she said. "I was feeling pretty good that day. I ran more aggressive."

Freshman brother Joel, a budding distance standout, gives his sister a training push.

"I love running with Joel," O'Shea said. "He's practiced with us since he was in seventh grade. I benefit a lot from it. It's a friendly thing."

After finishing 23rd in last year's state meet, O'Shea looks to climb the ranks Saturday in Bloomington.

"I'm excited for state," she said. "It's a chance to prove everything. I went out way too fast last year. Now I know what to expect. I just have to go out and run my race."

Though 800 times around the state were fast, with 11 girls meeting the 2:17.12 standard, Anderson doesn't presume nothing about the race.

"I've been to state meets many, many years and you see some tremendous improvement in performances," she said. "We talk to the kids about it. Kids in other heats, lower seeds, place all the time. You can't worry about seeds and times. You have to approach every race as if you're trying to win. You've got to show up on race day and go for it. You never know what might happen."

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