Shannon O'Connell

[Shannon graduated from Peabody High School in May, 2019, and started her freshman year at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, NH, in September. She ran cross country, plus indoor and outdoor track at Peabody and plans to do all three seasons in college.

In her first two college xc races she was 2nd on her team. In her third she ran 18:55 at the Keene State Invitational to smash the Colby-Sawyer xc 5K record. At the end of her first college xc season, Shannon writes: "I broke the school record in the 5k and 6k My 5k was 18:55 and my 6k was 22:45. I got rookie of the year for my conference and placed 2nd at the conference meet so I got the First Team award."

Successful runners are those who overcome challenges – injury, illness, hills, and don’t ever talk about the weather. Shannon writes: “I would say my best race was spring state relays of my senior year This was my first time racing since I found out I had anemia and had to slow my training down for a bit. I started to feel much better and I pr’ed in my race that weekend! This was a mentally good thing for me because I was really struggling with running for a while.”
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GTD: Shannon, how many summers have you trained in Coach Braz's summer program?
Shannon: This summer was my third summer of training with the Going the Distance program. I went to Peabody High so Coach Braz was my high school coach for my junior and senior year for all three seasons. Having this summer program is really the best because I know training will be consistent and Coach Braz knows my capabilities.

GTD: In previous years you trained in the program’s HS groups. Since you’re running in college this fall, you were in the college group, with a combined college / GTD program. How does this work?
Shannon: Coach Braz worked with my running schedule from my college coach to fit in with the GTD program. I still got to do everything my college coach wanted me to do, while getting in even more. The college group would start at 7:45 so we could be done with our runs in time for our stations after our run. We would have some type of dynamic warm up then we would run as a group. We would usually have different runs every day but I never had to do a run completely alone.


GTD: The last phase of each training session is devoted to core work, flexibility, and strength. Tell us about it. What did you like and didn't like.
Shannon: After our runs we would do stationary flexibility work combined with strides. Then we would do ankle bands, long bands and medicine balls to increase strength. We would also do hurdle drills after each session. My favorite part of working out is core so I would force my friends to do it with me every day. Then we would sometimes lift in the weight room after we were done stretching. All of the drills are important for injury prevention and are a big part of being a successful runner. Sometimes after a long or hard run the drills were a little exhausting but I didn't mind doing them.

GTD: When you’re doing the “running” parts of the program, do you ever “visualize” a xc race?
Shannon: Yes, when I do things like hill workouts I imagine hills during a race. I think that it gives the workout a purpose and motivates me more.


GTD: When you race, do you have routines that you always do to prepare, leading right up to the start?
Shannon: The night before a race I typically try to have a lot of protein and vegetables and some carbs like pasta or rice. Then the day of the race I try to have a lot of water and electrolytes if it's going to be hot. I would always wear the same uniform because I felt like it was good luck. My high school teammates and I made it our thing to wear funny crew neck socks so I would always have pizza socks or avocado socks to race in. I would do a short warm up jog maybe an hour before the race then I would do a dynamic warmup and a few strides on the starting line. Then right before we start I have to do a few jumps, I really don't know why but it makes me feel better. Before races I get a lot quieter because I really like to focus on what I’m doing and try to visualize the race.


GTD: Sometimes when it’s over, runners think about those moments in a race where they lost focus (and time). Did you have any of those “lost moments” in Braz camp? Perhaps when you may have just gone through the motions during a core session, other times?
Shannon: I think sometimes while we did hurdle drills I wouldn't really complete them to my full effort. Usually we do hurdles as our last station so by then I'm tired and it's easy to just go through the motions of doing them without really getting the benefits of the drill.


GTD: Many athletes get serious about what they eat. What are your thoughts on nutrition?
Shannon: I think that eating a healthy and balanced diet is important to be a good runner. I try to eat as healthy as I can but I also don't pass up the opportunity to get ice cream. As I started to increase my running my junior and senior year of high school I started to lose weight because I was underfueling. During the end of my senior year my running hit a wall and could barely run for ten minutes without using up all my energy. That's when I went to the doctor and found out I had anemia. Coach Pete was also one of my high school coaches so he was a huge help with increasing my calories and making sure I was eating enough to support myself. I think it's important to have some type of protein or carb source after a run to replenish so I would typically make a protein smoothie after GTD sessions.


GTD: What are you studying at Colby-Sawyer? Long-range plans?
Shannon: I am a nursing major but I’m not sure what type of nurse I want to become. I think I want to become a traveling nurse for a few years so I can work but also get to see new places. Eventually I think I want to go back to school to become a nurse practitioner.


Left to right -- Sarah Freeman (Bryant), Ali Barrett (Trinity), Shannon, Vic Lombardi (Stonehill), Marissa Farago (Franklin Pierce).


XC Edge Athletes

Interview Home

Sean Kay, Arlington Catholic, Oct. 2019
Shannon O'Connell, Colby-Sawyer College, Oct. 2019
Riley Dowd, Stonehill College, Sep. 2018
Kate Mitchell, Boston Collge, Aug. 2018
Nadja Ueckert-LaPlante, Ipswich HS, Dec. 2017
Marissa Farago, Triton HS, Apr. 2017
Anthony Pizzo, AIC, Dec. 2016
Matt Loehle, UConn, Dec. 2016
Emily DeMarco, Ipswich HS, Apr. 2016
Sarah Oliver, Marblehead HS, Jan. 2016
AJ Ernst, Marblehead HS, Dec. 2015
Abby Walsh, Beverly HS, Dec. 2015
Sydney Packard, Bishop Fenwick HS, Dec. 2015
Griffin Barriss, Melrose HS, Dec. 2015
Tia Patterson, Boston College, Dec. 2015
Thomas Mackin, Lynn Classical HS, Dec. 2015
Riley Dowd, Stonehill College, Nov. 2015
Emily Weigand, American University, Nov. 2015
Connor Wolff, Stonehill College, Nov. 2015
Lexi Buonfiglio, Stonehill College, Nov. 2015
Victoria Holleran, St John, Peabody, Mar. 2015
Abby Walsh, Beverly HS, Dec. 2014
Riley Dowd, Peabody HS, Dec. 2014
Sarah Oliver, Marblehead HS, Dec. 2014
Tia Patterson, Lynnfield HS, Nov. 2014
Emily Horgan, Univ. of Vermont, Nov. 2014
Arianna Maida, Bishop Fenwick HS, Sep. 2014