For the last two years, Daniel O’Brien has trained for the cross country season by running 60 to 70 miles each week, a regimen he continues until the season comes to a close.
All that hard work has paid off.
The Virginia Episcopal School senior, a state cross country champ the last three years in Division 2 of the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association, has been named the Virginia Gatorade Cross Country Runner of the Year for the second straight year.
Only one other cross country runner, Loudoun Valley grad Drew Hunter, has ever earned that honor from Gatorade two straight times.
O’Brien has gained national attention in both cross country and track and field circles throughout his career. He was a highly touted freshman four years ago who quickly started earning accolades. But his performances the last two seasons have been stunning.
“It’s definitely pretty crazy seeing all the rankings and [surpassing] all the guys I looked up to as a freshman and sophomore,” O’Brien said.
He ran a speedy 15:11.70 to claim the VISAA Div. 2 state cross country title last November, a finish that was faster than the league’s Division 1 time and better than all six state champions from the Virginia High School League state meets. VES also won the boys title that day.
He also clocked a 14:57 last season before advancing to the Foot Locker Championships in San Diego, where he finished seventh and earned his second straight All-American honor.
O’Brien did not lose to an in-state opponent all last season, according to a press release from Gatorade.
“I’m definitely a lot stronger and more mature, physically and mentally,” O’Brien said of his growth the last two years.
In addition to his numerous state track and field titles, O’Brien recently ran in the Suffolk Stars Invite in Hampton, where he turned in a 4:14.53 in the 1,600-meter run. At last month’s Virginia Showcase at Liberty University, he clocked a 9:13.40 in the 2-mile run.
Gatorade takes into consideration athletic excellence, academic achievements and character when choosing its athletes of the year.
For the second straight year, O’Brien will give the $1,000 grant he receives from Gatorade to Run Charlottesville, a nonprofit co-founded by E.C. Glass grad Maddie Rennyson, currently a runner at UVa.
By virtue of being named state runner of the year, O’Brien will be considered for Gatorade National Cross Country Runner of the Year. The winner will be announced later this month.
Reach Ben Cates at (434) 385-5527.