O’Connell takes top prize at sports awards presentation

Peyton Jefferson,
The Prosper Press
Aubrey O'Connell of Prosper High School competes in the 3200-meter race at the McKinney ISD Relays held at Ron Poe Stadium in February..

Prosper High School rising junior Aubrey O’Connell was named Girls Cross-Country Runner of the Year for the Dallas area by USA Today High School Sports.

The awards show was held via a digital on-demand broadcast on June 18.

Winners were awarded for each sport covered by the show, as well as overall awards such as boys and girls Athletes of the Year.

O’Connell’s love for cross-country began when she started running in the seventh grade. After receiving encouragement from her athletics coach, who prompted her to run in her middle school’s district meet, she says she “just loved it from there.”

Four years later, Prosper High School’s cross-country team began its 2019 fall season. Training that year began in June, however, following the summer training, O’Connell suffered an injury.

“Around September, I got a hamstring strain,” O’Connell said. “I think it was just from overuse and from not stretching enough. I sat out for around three weeks. It was kind of difficult at first. I had to ease into it. It’s kind of hard mentally to get back, but I got there. I came back around two meets before district.”

Despite being out for this short period of time, O’Connell did not let the injury stop her. Once back in action, she went on to win district, regionals and state.

“She has grit and determination,” said Jennifer Gegogeine, head cross-country coach for Prosper High School. “It is tough because all you want to do when you are injured is compete. Patience is key. She not only overcame her injury, but she fought to win state.”

In order to win the award, O’Connell had to beat out the 10 other girls who were nominated for the Girls Cross-Country Runner of the Year award. This included athletes from nearby schools such as Frisco Reedy, Lovejoy, McKinney North, as well as two members from Southlake Carroll, among others.

“I was up against a lot of amazing runners, so it was kind of a shock to win,” O’Connell said. “It mostly opens my eyes up to what I am capable of doing. I hope that next year I am able to live up to that, and hopefully win it again.”

“Aubrey is a competitor,” Gegogeine continued. “When she steps up to the line for the race, she is focused and has her goal at the forefront. She finishes each race with everything she has left. Her foot speed is incredible and she will edge anyone out at the finish line.

“Her success deserves to be recognized, and even though I didn’t know she would earn this award before she was nominated, I definitely knew she deserved one.”

Prosper's Aubrey O'Connell, who recently won the USA Today High School Sports Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year award for the Dallas area, crosses the finish line in first place in the 5K race at the 2019 6A UIL Cross-Country State Championship.