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All-Area Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year: Daniel O'Brien, VES

All-Area Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year: Daniel O'Brien, VES

Only $5 for 5 months

Q: How much did new coach Christopher Bright impact not only your performance, but the team as well?

A: I think Coach Bright really brought a new perspective and a lot of new, great ideas to the team. [Former head coach and current assistant Jen Anderson] and Coach Bright really worked together, so everybody there kind of worked together and had really good chemistry. I think it worked out pretty well to bring new ideas and new perspective in from his old team.

Q: Are there any differences in Bright and Anderson?

A: Definitely different coaching styles, I guess, but I think their ideas and philosophies are pretty similar. I think they had known each other, so they were already used to how the other would coach and everything. It really blended well together.

Q: Could you have scripted your year any better?

A: I really think it went to plan. I was really thankful to not be injured and stay healthy and hit pretty much all the goals. It was just a blast with the team having one last good season, so I was really happy with how it turned out.

Q: Was running a sub-15 (at the MileStat Invitational) one of your goals?

A: Definitely. That was definitely a big goal of mine was to break 15, so I was really, really happy to be able to do it.

Q: Was another big goal to improve on the national level by earning second-team All-American honors at the Foot Locker Championships?

A: I think coming in from last year, I really, really wanted to be in one of those top-10 spots. The whole season was kind of the goal to make it back and then try to get one of those top-10 spots. I think the experience from last year on the course out there really, really helped, just knowing the hills and knowing the turns and everything about it. I think that really helped boost me to a better performance than last year.

Q: What was your motivation throughout the season after earning third-team All-American honors as a junior?

A: I think that one of the big things was pushing for that second [Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division II] team title, just having the first one last year for private schools was really huge for us. Knowing that we could do it again was a big thing. Knowing we had a bigger team this year, a better team, it was nice to be surrounded by guys that really were motivated through the whole year. I think having that big team atmosphere really helped a lot this year to keep going forward.

Q: How much has cross country blossomed at VES since you’ve been there?

A: I think it’s grown tremendously since my sister [Kathrin] first got there and then when I got there. I think it was a handful of kids maybe when my sister first got to VES, and now it’s one of the biggest teams on campus. I’m really, really proud of everybody and what they’ve done. I think it’s really grown really, really well.

Q: Does having more runners help you?

A: I think so. Just having a big atmosphere and a big team feeling — it’s fun to have a few guys but it’s definitely more fun to have a lot of guys in every workout and just everybody working hard. It’s nice to have a big team, for sure.

Q: You didn’t run as many meets this season compared to last season. Was that by design?

A: This year was definitely fewer races throughout the season, partially maybe because college visits took up a couple. This year was definitely more of a focus on the end of the season and not trying to get too distracted by early regular-season meets and really try to be all-in for the postseason. I think that was a little bit by design.

Q: Was it easier to pace yourself with that schedule?

A: It at times was nice to have big training blocks and not have to worry about another race coming up and just train for a few weeks and focus on the race in the future versus having to race back-to-back-to-back throughout the season. Kind of having fewer races but more important races worked out pretty well this year.

Q: Did it work out to where you were running in the more prestigious events?

A: I think so, definitely. I tried to get in a couple of pretty big ones and get used to that high level of competition before Foot Locker Regionals and Foot Locker Nationals. Just keying off a couple of big meets here and there to get the legs ready for big meets.

Q: What’s next for you once you graduate from VES?

A: I’m committed to Princeton and I’m really, really excited about that. Great coaching, great guys there, so it’s sad to leave VES but I’m really excited to move in with the new guys on the team.

Q: You had a good list of colleges to choose from in Princeton, Stanford, Georgetown and Virginia. What allowed the Tigers to stand out?

A: The main thing was academics in all the schools I looked at. I loved all the coaches and all the schools, but I think knowing the academics are so good, it was really about finding the right group of guys and the right coaching. I think when I got to Princeton, I really found the culture to be exactly what I was looking for. I think it was really about the people in the end.

Q: Have you decided on a major?

A: Not yet. Still undecided right now.

Q: What’s a moment from this past season that you’re going to remember for the rest of your life?

A: I think probably the most fun I’ve had all season was after the state championship with the team. It was sad in a way and pretty emotional for all the seniors knowing that it was our last one with the team, but at the same time it was so much fun being able to run around and cool down and watch the girls race after we finished ours and knowing that we won and everything. That whole day in itself was probably the best moment of the season with all the guys around me.

Q: What teammate are you going to miss the most?

A: That’s a tough one. I’m just going to say a few, but Josh Buckley, Row Sterne, Thomas Cook, those guys have really been with me for the longest. It’s going to be tough to leave those guys for sure.

Q: Who has been your favorite teacher?

A: I think my favorite teacher, who actually left this past year, Zach Wakefield. He was my AP U.S. history teacher and he was definitely the best teacher I’ve ever had. I’m really sad to see him go this year, but he was a great teacher and a great person.

Q: What are your goals for the indoor and outdoor track seasons?

A: I think definitely to win at least two more state titles for private school, potentially placing high as a team in outdoor states for VISAA. It would definitely be really cool to place highly as a team for outdoor track and improving on my times for last year.

Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.

Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.

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