Emily O'Hara, right, of Kellenberg.

Emily O'Hara, right, of Kellenberg. Credit: Handout

When Kellenberg’s Emily O’Hara steps on the track, she’s competing in two races. One is the meet at hand – get to the front of the pack and stay there just long enough to cross the finish line with a hefty amount of points. The second is a race against her teammates – a race to make varsity.

O’Hara is currently the top JV runner on the Firebirds. The top seven are granted varsity status, meaning they compete against the best of the best. In a sport where athletes thrive on being pushed to their absolute limits, it’s no surprise that the varsity race is looked at as a Holy Grail of sorts.

“I’m really determined to get up to that spot because the varsity race is so much faster and it really drives you to do better,” O’Hara said. “A lot of my friends are on the varsity, so that really motivates me too.”

O’Hara finished second in the JV race of last weekend’s Wilton Invitational at Allen’s Meadows in Wilton, Conn. in 17 minutes, 21 seconds.

“It was a major breakthrough for me because it boosted my confidence,” she said of the two-and-a-half mile run. “I’m hoping to imitate that kind of confidence in a varsity race.”

Coach Marty Brown has O’Hara working out with the varsity seven, in hopes that the intensity of the practices will carry over to competition.

“I’m sticking with my varsity teammates to be able to get their times and get on that level,” O’Hara said. “It’s really an honor to be on the varsity team.”

And the junior has confidence that she’s close to cracking the lucky seven.

“I’m right on the brink,” she said.

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