Always Moving Forward

  • By Daniel Whitehead
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  • September 30, 2011 10:31 AM
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MORGANTOWN, W. Va. - For some, an injury sustained in practice or in competition might be reason for sitting back and shifting to idle mode in recovery efforts.

For cross country redshirt senior Jessica O’Connell, the opposite is true in that not even a vehicle-pedestrian accident and resulting injury could keep the Alberta, Canada native from training.

She remembers the date well: October 13, 2010. While out on a training run during her redshirt season last year, O’Connell was blindsided by a left-turning vehicle and sustained a dislocated shoulder and other bumps and bruises from the collision. With an arm in a brace for a few weeks, O’Connell continued to find ways to stay in shape, cross-training when possible and trying to recover as quickly as possible.

“It turned out to be a huge blessing that Coach (Sean) Cleary asked me to redshirt last year because that accident would have put me out of the BIG EAST Championship and NCAA Regionals and the year would have been lost,” O’Connell said.

Other times throughout her running career, she has faced tendinitis or other injuries that have kept her from various competitions.

“I take it day-by-day and do my best to train no matter what condition I’m in,” she said.

Still on the mend, O’Connell looks to finish her WVU career out on top with her final year of eligibility in both cross country and indoor and outdoor track. Looking to capitalize on her redshirt from a year ago and build off of a second team All-America performance (3,000m) from the 2011 NCAA indoor track season, she hopes for bigger things in her final go-round.

“I think I’ve become stronger and more mature in my racing,” O’Connell said. “I’ve been able to watch the team and gain a better perspective of what’s going on during competition. As for track, I think I’ve increased my confidence and know I belong with the other girls if I’m racing at my full potential.”

Interestingly enough, running wasn’t always a favorite for O’Connell, who transferred to WVU from the University of Calgary in 2009. She enjoyed Irish dancing in her childhood and didn’t get involved with track or competitive running until her junior year of high school.

“Irish dancing was my first love, and I enjoyed competing in both individual and team competitions,” she said. “A friend got me involved with it and I took it from there.”

Just as it is for most people, running took some time to get used to for O’Connell, but she grew into it and can’t imagine life without a daily run. She offers advice for those who want to incorporate running consistently into their lives.

“I tell people that if they can get past that initial stage of dreading to run, it’s worth the effort because running grows on you and it’s enjoyable if you make it a daily routine.”

She also recommends finding somewhere fun to run where you can enjoy the scenery of the experience.

“I love going with teammates to Cheat Lake or Cooper’s Rock to break up the monotony of taking the same routes,” O’Connell said. “You get to enjoy the outdoors on top of creating a healthy lifestyle.”

The exercise physiology major plans to attend graduate school beginning next year and go on to earn a master’s degree in the field.

In the sport of running or in life, O’Connell is moving forward.