O’Neal

Walker County Messenger - - Sports -

and it was great to win the in­di­vid­ual state ti­tle. We were hop­ing to fin­ish first as a team, but hope­fully we’ll be there again next sea­son.”

While also run­ning cross-coun­try, O’Neal dou­bled as a stand­out on the vol­ley­ball court. She racked up 201 kills, 265 digs and 56 aces to help the Lady Tro­jans to 30 vic­to­ries and a berth in the state play­offs.

How­ever, there was no rest as she went straight into bas­ket­ball sea­son, earn­ing first team All 6-A North honors after av­er­ag­ing 9.8 points and pulling down 9.6 re­bounds per game.

“Do­ing vol­ley­ball at the same time (as cross coun­try) was a chal­lenge, but I got through it,” she said. “We ended up go­ing pretty far in state (in vol­ley­ball), al­though that last loss was a tough one. Then in bas­ket­ball, we went all way to the Sweet 16. It was a re­ally good sea­son be­cause we re­ally worked for that one. We weren’t ex­pected to go as far as we did.”

This past spring, she turned in an­other flaw­less sea­son on the track, win­ning count­less times in both the 800 and the 1600 dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son. She swept both events at the Area 3-A meet to help Gor­don Lee win a sec­ond straight team ti­tle. She went on to win the 800 at the state sec­tional meet, hav­ing al­ready qual­i­fied for the 1600 at state by virtue of her area vic­tory.

Then in Al­bany in May, she won her first state ti­tle in the 800 with a school-record time of 2:23.12 and also made it back-to-back state cham­pi­onships in the 1600. Her time of 5:20 equaled her statewin­ning time of last year and was three sec­onds off her school-record (5:17) she set ear­lier in the spring.

Un­for­tu­nately for the Lady Tro­jans, they were sur­passed for the team points ti­tle by Telfair County on the fi­nal race of the meet.

“It was such a close bat­tle for the team ti­tle,” said O’Neal, who shared Walker County Girls’ Track Ath­lete of the Year honors with team­mate Kaylee Brown. “We were right there and then got beat out on that last race. That was kind of hard on us all, but we’re go­ing to work so hard next year. We’re shoot­ing to get state.”

She said she felt some pres­sure to per­form at her peak all the time, but also knew that her best was all she could ask of her­self.

“There was some pres­sure,” she said. “I knew I wasn’t play­ing for my­self, though. I was play­ing for the Lord. Some­times you just have to put the thoughts out of your mind that peo­ple are count­ing on you to do this or that. All you can do is your best and that’s all you can do. You just have to al­ways fo­cus on bet­ter­ing your­self every­day. Ev­ery day you work, you want to get bet­ter. You don’t want a wasted prac­tice.”

She said a few col­leges have al­ready started in­quir­ing about her ath­letic tal­ents.

“Noth­ing too se­ri­ous yet,” she added. “I’m not too sure about any­thing yet, but I’m hop­ing to start look­ing into that even­tu­ally.”

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