Underrepresented runners moved out of the spotlight


A flitting shadow in the trees, glimpsed only for a moment. A shape, too fleet-footed for the eye to follow, tearing down some forested trail. One might speculate that they have caught a glimpse of a species of Appalachian Bigfoot, driven from its mountainous home by global warming. No! It’s Guilford’s track and field team.

When one thinks of Guilford’s sports teams — all members of the highly prestigious Division III conference — generally what is brought to mind are the hordes of maroon tracksuited football players. Or perhaps one thinks of Guilford’s lacrosse players, those able men and women who are so rarely seen without their faithful sticks. Far less represented, however, is the Guilford track team.

While most of the attention given to the athletic department seems to focus on teams whose events constitute more traditional spectator sports, runners like sophomore Jasmine O’Neill of Winston-Salem, N.C., have been breaking school records and taking names while out of the limelight. As one of the cross-country team’s strongest runners, O’Neill has recorded the six best 800-meter times in Guilford history, with a personal best time of 2:32.23. O’Neill also set the school’s 200-meter record at the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Championships at 29.82 seconds as a rookie on the team.

A standout athlete even in high school, under the tutelage of Parkland High School coaches Erick Fritz and Antwan Hughes, O’Neill was able to letter two years in cross country, and three in track. During her time there, she helped Parkland High School place second at the 2009 3A state championships, as well as assisting in three Piedmont Triad Conference Outdoor Track and Field titles.

As a cross country athlete, O’Neill has set the fifth-fastest time for a Guilford runner in the five kilometer at the Hagan Stone Classic, clocking in at 21:09.99 and finishing 18th out of a veritable swarm of 114 runners, helping Guilford place eighth out of 13 teams.

Speaking to what some might perceive as an underrepresentation of Guilford’s track team in disproportion to their achievements, O’Neill conceded that the school does seem to place less value on the team.
“My friends and family tell me they want to come to one of my ‘home’ meets all of the time so they can watch me run,” said O’Neill. “And it hurts to tell them they can’t because we don’t have a track or (now) a course to compete on.”
Will Guilford’s administration continue to neglect its hard-working runners, or will the achievements of athletes like O’Neill finally draw the attention they really deserve? Only time will tell.

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