Carley O’Brien’s goal of winning an individual state championship in outdoor track and field was a realistic one. After all, the Traip Academy senior had established herself as one of Class C’s most dominant jumpers and hurdlers, and she was at the culmination of her training in her final high school meet.
But during the course of the Class C meet at Bath’s McMann Field, she discovered that the Rangers had a strong chance of winning the team championship. At that point, O’Brien took it upon herself to rally her teammates.
“None of us expected this,” said O’Brien, who will compete next year at Keene State in New Hampshire. “We had 12 really strong girls at states, compared to all the other (larger) teams. We all knew we had to work hard, and we had harder practices, put in more time and created more of a focus for ourselves.”
O’Brien won two events at the Class C championships — the 100 hurdles (15.88 seconds) and the long jump (16 feet, 8 1/4 inches). She also finished second in the triple jump and anchored Traip’s winning 400-meter relay team, helping to score 38 points as the Rangers edged John Bapst, which had won eight of the last nine championships.
O’Brien finished her high school career with five individual state championships — one Class B title in indoor track and four Class C titles in outdoor track. But Traip Coach Larissa Simonds knew this year was O’Brien’s best opportunity to prove herself and be successful against the competition.
“She’s grown as an athlete and she’s gotten stronger physically,” Simonds said. “This year, it was all coming together. She was peaking this year. She was ready for it. She’d won state championships, but for her to win four events (in indoor and outdoor track) was an incredible thing.”
At the Class C championship meet, O’Brien’s motivation wasn’t just a product of the day. During the season, she established herself as a leader and, in some ways, as a coach by extension, working with a handful of hurdlers at Traip.
“Carley really stepped up,” Simonds said. “She encouraged them, she helped them with technique and workouts. She stepped up as a leader, and she’s a person that realizes she’s a good athlete, but she realized that the team has to win as a team.”
O’Brien’s senior year was a far cry from when she first went out for track as a freshman. Back then, she was the lone hurdler on a small team.
“As a freshman, she started out solo and I don’t think she had that kind of support,” Simonds said. “She stepped into the role and took it on as a senior. She came in with the mentality of, ‘I’ve got talent, but I can share it and help these girls get better.’ “
In that role, O’Brien felt more of a focus on her.
“I had a lot of people looking up to me,” O’Brien said. “It was pressure, and it’s good to have it and it helps people to drive harder. And sometimes I felt like a coach, too, helping others. It meant so much. Before that, I never really thought of myself as a leader.”
Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: