By Rob Kiser
SIDNEY — Lehman Catholic senior Alanna O’Leary is all business on the track this spring.
And she said her next stop has something to do with that.
O’Leary, the daughter or Rob and Rose O’Leary, recently signed a letter of intent to run track for Hillsdale College, a Division II school located in Hillsdale, Mich.
O’Leary a three-time state qualifier in track and two-time state qualifier in cross country, is coming off another strong performance at the New Bremen Invitational.
She swept the 100, 200 and 400 and also ran on a winning relay team.
“This is as focused as I have seen Alanna (O’Leary) in her four years,” Lehman track and field coach Dwane Rowley said.
There is a reason for that.
“I am really excited about running in college,” O’Leary said. “That is one of the reasons I have been so focused this year.”
Ironically, it was an unselfish decision by O’Leary that sparked her decision to run in college.
“She was the defending district champion in the 10o,” Rowley said. “And she gave that up to run on relay team.”
O’Leary said that was a turning point in her college decision.
“We had a relay team that made it to regionals,” O’Leary said. “I just love that team aspect of it (running on a relay). That’s when I knew I wanted to run in college. I was undecided before that.”
And when she visited Hillsdale, O’Leary knew it was the place she wanted to spend the next four years.
“I really love their academic programs,” O’Leary said. “And the coach is great. He is a really personable guy. He makes me feel like he wanted to be their. I knew that was where I wanted to go. They are Division II and have a really strong program. I am really excited about it.”
She got the decision out of the way before track season.
“That is why I verbally committed on Jan. 1,” O’Leary said. “I wanted to focus on the track season.”
And she is looking to making the next step, after making her first trip to the podium last June at Jesse Owens Stadium.
As a freshman, she qualified in the 200, while advancing in both the 200 and 400 as a sophomore.
As a junior, she placed seventh in the 400 in 58.28.
“I think the first couple years, I was just happy to get over there,” O’Leary said. “I think that was (big to get on the podium last year). Now, I go over with different expectations.”
“She was just happy to be there the first couple years,” he said. “I think she does have different expectations. We have some relay teams with a chance to get to regionals, maybe even state. And Alanna (O’Leary) will be on one of those relay teams.”
And young runners on Lehman are a motivator for O’Leary.
“I want to be a leader and mentor them,” she said. “And I just love running on relay teams.”
And she follows a long line of Lehman girls standouts in the sprints, including former state champion Gretchen Walter and Sarah Titterington.
“We have had other girls go on to run (at the next level) like Gretchen (Water) and Sarah (Titterington),” Rowley said. “Not only is it good for the school (when a track athlete signs to run in college), it helps build the program.”
And O’Leary looks to continue to do that with a big finish to her senior year.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.