The Collegian
Saturday, August 15, 2020

Spider Stories: Right on track

<p>Kayla O'Connell running a 600 meter race at JDL Fast Track Indoor Track and Field event in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. <em>Courtesy of Richmond XCTF</em></p>

Kayla O'Connell running a 600 meter race at JDL Fast Track Indoor Track and Field event in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Courtesy of Richmond XCTF

Editor's note: Spider Stories is a sports series that is designed as a platform to give student-athletes a voice through the sharing of first-person stories. 

10 years ago, I would never have believed that I would be running track and field at the University of Richmond. 

Running wasn’t my passion, nor did I ever believe it would be. My freshman year of high school, I made the varsity soccer team. I loved soccer, but my experience on that team was far from perfect.

I almost lost faith in high school sports… until I joined the track team. My previous view of high school sports flipped completely once I walked on to the 400-meter rubber oval. I had found my place. My home. A place that for the next four years would be where I made my closest friends and best high school memories.

As my four years of high school began to dwindle, I realized that I could not give up on track. With everything coming to an end, I wanted track to remain a constant. I decided that I wanted to continue running in college. 

As I began my search for the perfect college, UR wasn’t immediately on my radar. In fact, I didn’t even know it existed. I discovered UR after a family friend recommended that I look into it. The more I researched, the more I fell in love with UR. 

My love intensified once I walked through the campus for the first time on my official visit. Aside from my official visit at UR, I had visits at Bucknell University and High Point University. The academics, athletics and the exquisite campus set UR apart from the other schools. UR remained superior on every level of comparison. I committed as quickly as I could to the school that possessed everything I could dream of — the University of Richmond. 

As I packed up my car in August of 2019 and began the 11-hour drive from Boston to Richmond, tears streamed down my face. I was scared to begin my new life and didn’t want to say goodbye to the past 18 years. Unbeknownst to me, a brand new family awaited me: my loving team. 

Going into my first year, I had low expectations. Throughout my entire high school senior year, I dealt with a knee injury and was unable to run. I was anxious that my injury would continue to inhibit my ability to run at UR. Surprisingly, my injury healed shortly after arriving at UR for preseason training. Thankfully, I was able to practice and compete throughout my entire freshman winter season at UR.

I was pleasantly surprised with my results and was looking forward to an exciting outdoor season. Sadly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my team and I are unable to compete in the spring season. Although this setback is unexpected, I know that my team can rise to the occasion and make the best out of the circumstances. 

Looking back on my shortened freshman year, I am both appreciative of and grateful for the opportunities that this year has given me. Not only did I meet my best friends, I also experienced an incredible college lifestyle. Track has given me both the structure and support to be successful academically. Whatever the future holds, I know that by setting goals for myself, I can accomplish anything. 

Although you only need running spikes, legs and a bit of adrenaline to race, the beauty of track is in the people who run beside you, through thick and thin, with one common goal in mind — the finish line. 

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Contact contributor Kayla O'Connell at kayla.oconnell@richmond.edu.

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