Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown Track Succeeds Without Students Noticing

At 6-foot-6.5 he is one of those people whose awkward height always causes him to stand out in a crowd. Through his naturally athletic frame and intense work ethic, he has been one of the most consistent and decorated Georgetown athletes over the past four years, achieving national recognition as an All-American. Yet, you probably have never heard of this accomplished Hoya. Confused? You won’t find Jesse O’Connell carrying a basketball around campus. He is a star on the men’s track and field team.

It’s a bit ironic. His presence on the track is unmistakable. Freakishly tall for a world-class middle distance runner, O’Connell dwarfs his opponents who are often a foot shorter than him. Yet it’s his skill, not his height, that intimidates opponents. His success began as a freshman in 2001, capturing the Big East outdoor crown in the 800m. That same year, O’Connell took home the U.S. Junior National Championship and represented the United States in the Pan-American Junior Championships. Remarkably consistent, his success has continued throughout his Georgetown career, including a third-place finish at the U.S. Indoor Championships, the top collegiate finisher in the field. Now he has his sights set on the outdoor season and the U.S. Olympic trials this summer. When O’Connell steps onto the track, his opponents certainly know who he is.

You shouldn’t feel too bad if you’ve never seen O’Connell and his teammates race. Most of his friends haven’t done so either. Georgetown is an East Coast collegiate track power, both on the men’s and women’s side, but it doesn’t have its own track to run on. Thus, Georgetown never holds meets. Unless you plan to travel, you won’t see some of Georgetown’s finest athletes performing at the highest amateur level.

Don’t misunderstand. Georgetown’s track athletes, both men and women, aren’t whining about the lack of facilities. As recruits, they became Hoyas fully aware that the luxuries enjoyed by programs of the same stature are not available at Georgetown. They aren’t angry about excelling in anonymity, but you would have to think it would be nice to be recognized. Without little blurbs in THE HOYA and the plethora of medals and trophies that they bring home, where would the proof of their achievements come from? When it comes to their success, friends of track athletes almost have to take their word for it.

You’ve probably seen members of our track teams training on the outskirts of campus wearing bizarrely small shorts and darting past you like freshmen at a keg party. When they aren’t running around Georgetown, they hop on a van to Washington and Lee High School, four miles away in Virginia. Actually, some of them (mostly distance runners) just run there as a warm-up. They are, after all, endurance freaks. Training there means weaving through high school students jogging around the track during gym class, giving new meaning to the hurdles competition for these All-American caliber athletes.

Lacking elite facilities seems to be a recurring theme with many of the athletic programs at Georgetown. Certainly, the baseball team still can’t be happy with the minivan parked on second base, as they too have to travel beyond campus to play. Even more recently, students and alums have been clamoring for an on-campus basketball arena or the renovation of McDonough Gymnasium in order to bring Hoya basketball back to the Hilltop. Yet, unlike other programs, Georgetown track succeeds in spite of its disadvantages and calls for a state of the art on-campus track facility aren’t quite as loud. There are plans for the renovation of a Georgetown area track, but even that will not be of regulation size. In other words, don’t look for track meets to take place at Georgetown for some time.

The program remains strong despite its deficiencies in large part due to its excellent reputation and superior coaching. At middle and long distances, Georgetown remains competitive with anyone. Most affected are recruits for field events and sprinters, those who would likely benefit most from a closer track. But the legacy of Georgetown track doesn’t appear in jeopardy, which is perhaps why it seems to be flying under the radar at this time.

So this leaves athletes like Jesse O’Connell and other All-American caliber athletes running in relative obscurity at Georgetown. In a country that only pays attention to track every four years and on a campus that does so even less, their motivation has to come from within. Thus, they run with few expectations of recognition back at school. Ultimately, it’s the Georgetown community that’s missing out by not witnessing the excellence right in front of our eyes.

Jeremy Lundblad can be reached at lundbladthehoya.com. SWEARING OFF CURSES appears every Friday.

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