Chippewa Hills alum Megan O’Neil thriving at Central Michigan

OFF AND RUNNING: Chippewa Hills senior Megan O’Neil is looking to make it back to the state finals in her final campaign. (Pioneer file photo)

ALL-STATE: Megan O’Neil, currently a junior at Central Michigan, was a four-time Division 2 Cross Country All-State selection (2010-13) and a three-time DIvision 2 All-State track and field selection (2011-14) during her time at Chippewa Hills High School. (Pioneer file)

MOUNT PLEASANT — Former Chippewa Hills cross country and track standout Megan O’Neil is set to begin her second outdoor track season at Central Michigan University.

O’Neil initially committed to Wisconsin for cross country and track, and transferred to Central Michigan after her freshman season.

“I really liked Madison’s campus,” O’Neil said. “As soon as my transfer release went through I called Central (Michigan) and everything fell into place. The coaching staff is really down-to-earth. I was nervous that they wouldn’t like me, but it’s been a great experience so far.”

A state champion in the 800-meter run and 1600-meter run while at Chippewa Hills, O’Neil has continued to put up impressive performances at the collegiate level.

O’Neil placed ninth in the 2016 Mid American Conference Championship meet with a time of 21:19.8, besting her previous personal record by over 30 seconds.

“That was great” she said. “I was thinking either they’re having a bad day or I’m having a really good day. My coach was saying you’re having the race of your life.”

She also had an impressive indoor track season, breaking the women’s CMU program record in the mile with a time of 4:49.13. She placed sixth in the event out of 57 competitors. The previous record of 4:50.5 was set in 2010 by Raeanne Lohner.

“I was a miler during indoor season,” she said. “I also ran a leg in the distance medley. I was focused on shorter events.”

An event O’Neil has really taken to during outdoor season is the 3000-meter Steeplechase. She has developed into one of Central’s all-time best in the event, with a personal-best time of 10:40.44.

“I talked my coach into doing steeplechase,” she said. “I took it and ran with it. A lot of my early training included me falling into the water pit, but everyone falls in the water pit at some point.”

O’Neil hopes to qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championship this season. The top 12 spots for each regional meet advance to the NCAA championship meet.

Even with all of the success she’s achieved at the collegiate level, O’Neil looks back fondly to her days at Chippewa Hills and the community, teammates and coaches that shaped her into the athlete she is today.

“My time at Chippewa Hills was great,” she said. “Everything was a team sport. Everyone checked their egos at the door and did things as a team, which is a big difference from College.

“I had the perfect coaching at Chippewa Hills. They really knew me as a person.”

O’Neil is currently double-majoring in Neuroscience and Exercise Science, while also weighing the possibility of adding a minor.

“I’m almost done with my degree now,” she said. “I could graduate next spring, but I’m thinking about doing part of a fifth year.”

O’Neil hasn’t ruled out running professionally after college. Her dream job?

“Definitely a professorship and my own lab,” she said. “The goal right now is to get a grad position after school and help with team.”

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