Greenfield grad O’Sullivan making strides for Westfield State cross country

  • Greenfield graduate Amy O’Sullivan runs for the Westfield State cross country team at a meet in Springfield on Oct. 19.  COURTESY/WESTFIELD STATE/RJBSPORTS.COM

  • Greenfield’s Amy O’€™Sullivan runs to a first place finish on Oct. 17, 2017 at Highland Park in Greenfield. Now a sophomore at Westfield State, O’Sullivan is one of the Owls’ top runners. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 11/19/2019 9:53:08 PM
Modified: 11/19/2019 10:30:52 PM

When Greenfield High School graduate Amy O’Sullivan began hitting the weights along with running 50 miles a week, the results showed for the Westfield State University cross country team.

That rigorous routine occupied the summer before her freshman season running at Stanley Park for the Owls.

O’Sullivan followed her preseason with a sweep of the MASCAC Women’s Cross Country Rookie of the Week awards as a freshman, winning the award a total of seven times.

“I really trained over the summer,” O’Sullivan said. “I followed our coach’s program. Went into the season with a base. I went into the season ready to go.”

Then more and more accolades started pouring in during her sophomore season. In the offseason, O’Sullivan upped her workload to 70 miles a week along with more weight training focused on the hamstrings. 

“It was a lot of tempo and longer distance work,” O’Sullivan said. “I think adding the strength routine really helped. My legs are a lot stronger now.”

O’Sullivan started the season with a first-place (20:00) finish at the Worcester City Invitational.

She then followed that win with a huge jump in time at the UMass Dartmouth Invitational, improving her time (18:11.41) by close to a minute from the previous season’s effort on the same course.

The blazing pace gave O’Sullivan a third-place finish in a field of 263 runners. 

“I came around the final turn and saw the clock was at 18 flat,” O’Sullivan said. “I had no idea I had improved so much.”

O’Sullivan’s individual strides helped the team success as the Owls captured the 2019 MASCAC championship at Moore State Park in Paxton this season  O’Sullivan placed third overall (19:24).

Senior Jenise Madden from Bridgewater State edged O’Sullivan for second place (19:23) in the field of 77 runners.

O’Sullivan still needs some work on her “finishing kick.”

“Usually the last half-mile is where people start trying to pick it up and really push,” O’Sullivan said. “Your legs are really tired trying to get that second wind.”  

O’Sullivan’s style relies on a fast start.

“I know I don’t have that final  finishing speed,” O’Sullivan said. “I try to get them at the beginning so they don’t catch me at the end.”

It was Westfield’s 23rd MASCAC title since 1985. 

O’Sullivan finished 24th (22:13) in the individual standings to lead the Owls at the 2019 NCAA New England Regional Qualifier at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.

The race had 380 runners and O’Sullivan did not expect the jump in the standings from last season.

“I don’t really set expectations for myself,” O’Sullivans said. “Just run hard and run fast and just see how good I can get.”

During her freshman season, O’Sullivan was 87th at the same race. O’Sullivan just missed qualifying for nationals during her sophomore season. 

“I was a few places off,” O’Sullivan said. “Nationals  wasn’t really a goal of mine. I just wanted to see how much I could improve. If I had made nationals this year, it would have been an added bonus.”

The best performance of her high school cross country career was a fourth-place finish at the Western Mass. meet as a senior, according to O’Sullivan.

“In high school, I didn’t do too much lifting,” O’Sullivan said. “It was just running.”

Greenfield coach Stuart Elliot coached O’Sullivan for four years in cross country.  

“She was absolutely committed,” Elliot said.  “She looks at running like a science and she always wants to be better. She is dedicated to the sport and a hard worker. Approaches everything with a smile. She took the time to get better.”

The time spent studying and running doesn’t allow much free time for O’Sullivan.

“I am doing something I love,” O’Sullivan said. “If I didn’t love it I wouldn’t be doing it. A lot of my friends are on the team, so we are going to the study rooms after practice and doing homework.”

Elliot is confident that next season, O’Sullivan will qualify for nationals. 

“She’ll get it,” Elliot said.  “She has her eyes on the prize, and she knows what she needs to do.” 

O’Sullivan earned all-conference honors this season, and will continue running for the track and field team, specializing in distance events. 

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