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.”