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Wheatley’s Brianna O’Brien leads the field

Brianna O'Brien of Wheatley won the varsity Girls

Brianna O'Brien of Wheatley won the varsity Girls A race during the 50th Annual Nassau Coaches Cross Country Invitational at Bethpage State Park on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. Photo Credit: James Escher

Soccer was Wheatley’s Brianna O’Brien’s first love. She was 5 years old when her foot first touched a ball and, through elementary, middle, and most of high school, the same foot stayed there. Slowly but surely, however, O’Brien’s foot became less interested in scoring goals and more interested in running fast.

O’Brien joined the indoor track team as a sophomore and quickly found a new passion. She played soccer during her junior year but, while running outdoor track, she decided that her senior fall season would be spent running through woods, not defenders.

“It was definitely a hard decision, but I was doing a lot better in track and just seeing improvements that I couldn’t see in soccer,” O’Brien said after winning the 5-kilometer Varsity A race in 18 minutes, 40.47 seconds at the Nassau Coaches Invitational at Bethpage State Park Saturday.

“[In soccer] you can’t see times dropping in the matter of one race. That’s what I really loved about track.”

The long distance of cross country has suited O’Brien just fine. Entering Saturday’s race, she was ranked seventh in the state, and first in Class C, according to the website Tullyrunners.

But this is nothing new to her. When O’Brien played soccer, she wasn’t satisfied with the workout that the sport would give her. Even after practices or games, she would train on her own — working on her strength and core.

“Endurance was always my thing,” she said. “Just because I was able to keep going. When that transferred over to cross country, I think it benefitted me and gave me the strength to be able to complete the races.”

O’Brien has already shown that she can compete with the best on Long Island (she won Saturday’s race by nearly a minute and topped all Nassau competition by nearly two minutes), she did run competitively with Shoreham-Wading River’s Katherine Lee at the St. Anthony’s Invitational on Sept. 30 at Sunken Meadow State Park.

O’Brien was second to Lee, who entered Saturday ranked fourth in the state, according to Tullyrunners.

“She was really good competition,” O’Brien said. “That was really my only competition this year.”

Staten Island’s Notre Dame Academy won the Varsity A team competition with 19 points. Great Neck North’s Samantha Law won the Varsity B race in 19:20.63 and Kellenberg won the team competition with 41 points.

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