Mount Spokane star O

Mount Spokane star O'Reilly 'just like everyone else'

MINDI RICE; The News Tribune
Published: April 11th, 2006 01:00 AM
Mount Spokane High senior Megan O'Reilly's prep career shows an apparent preference for track events versus the cross country season.

O'Reilly's accomplishments on the track include two Class 4A state championships in the girls 3,200 meters (2003 and 2004) and a 1,600 title (2004).

Last season, Bellarmine Prep senior Brie Felnagle swept the distance races – the 4A cross country title, plus the 1,600 and 3,200 runs. And she did it at O'Reilly's expense.

With Felnagle graduated, it is O'Reilly's time.

After capturing the 4A cross country title in the fall, O'Reilly is considering both sports when she starts at the University of Montana in the fall.

"Track has always been my favorite," O'Reilly said. "But after cross country this year … this year's really been my strongest evidence that I need a supportive team. We lost a bunch of core seniors, the head coach was new – it was pretty much a brand new program.

"For a while this summer, I held practices at my house because we didn't really have a coach. I don't know what it was, but we really bonded. When you're on the starting line and you see your teammates and they're as nervous as you are … you can really feel the love."

The cross country bonding came after a rough junior year that included the death of O'Reilly's grandmother and an injury.

During her junior season, O'Reilly was being lightly recruited. But the letters picked up in the fall with her cross country title. O'Reilly narrowed it down to Oregon and Montana, then chose Montana because the coach had recruited her even during her junior season.

"The school had everything I wanted," she said. "Spiritual, academic and a great team."

She initially didn't want to go to Montana — where her mother, Marie Cole, ran track — but felt the right team chemistry when she visited the campus.

But college is still months away. Before then, O'Reilly has her senior track season ahead of her – and a chance to break records.

O'Reilly has been hot this spring. She won the 3,000 race for prep runners at the Stanford Invitational on April 1 in California, and her time of 9 minutes, 29.18 seconds ranks No. 5 all-time for a state female prep runner.

"She is just adorable," Mount Spokane coach Annette Pedersen said. "You think sometimes really great athletes have a chip on their shoulders – she doesn't. I know she knows (how good she is), but she's just like everyone else. On the bus, she and the girls all braid each other's hair. They don't know that she could be in the Olympics someday."