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All-Area Boys Track: Former Eagle makes dad proud as a runner
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
When Joe O’Loughlin was growing up in Ireland, he sometimes found himself involved in mischief.
O’Loughlin and a group of friends were once trespassing when they were suddenly approached by someone working at the facility.
This week, The Free Lance–Star unveils its spring All-Area high school teams.
Here is the schedule:
Here is the schedule:
Today: Track and field
Saturday: Girls soccer
Sunday: Boys soccer
O’Loughlin and his friends were taken aback, but they breathed a sigh of relief when they discovered the man was Bertie Nessitt, a former Irish runner who competed in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.
Nessitt was setting up the facility for a marathon the next day. He asked the teenagers if they wanted to participate and O’Loughlin immediately agreed to do so.
O’Loughlin went on to win his first-ever race, fell in love with track and field and earned a scholarship to Middle Tennessee State University.
“Every once in a while, I’d go back to visit [Nessitt] and thank him,” O’Loughlin said. “He not only helped me. He helped another generation.”
The next generation O’Loughlin speaks of is his son, Brian.
Brian graduated from Colonial Forge High School in Stafford County earlier this month. But before he parted ways with the Eagles, Brian left his mark as one of the top distance runners in school history.
He placed second at the Group AAA state meet in the 3,200 meters (9:10.13). The effort propelled Brian to Free Lance–Star boys track and field athlete of the year honors.
“Brian’s strength is his strength,” said former Colonial Forge coach Michael Porter, who recently resigned to become a volunteer assistant at Louisiana State University. “For the most part, he can handle a lot mentally.”
It helps that Brian is motivated by his father’s accomplishments at Middle Tennessee State.
Joe O’Loughlin completed the mile in 4 minutes, 3 seconds in college. Brian’s personal-best is 4:16, but he’s driven by the desire to eclipse his father’s mark.
He’ll get a chance to do just that when he continues his career at Virginia Tech.
“When I was his age, my best time was 4:14, so he’s knocking on the door,” Joe O’Loughlin said. “For him to have a goal and work hard to go after it, I’d love for him to get it.”
Brian was also Free Lance–Star runner of the year following the 2011 cross country season. But he and Porter agreed that his overall season was inconsistent.
Brian said he was “on and off.” Still, Porter said when it came time for the biggest meets of the season, Brian delivered.
He was the top individual performer from the Fredericksburg area at the state cross country meet when he placed fifth.
At the spring state meet, he shaved more than 21 seconds off his time in the 3,200 from the previous week’s Northwest Region championships.
Brian said he suffered an Achilles injury during cross country season, and was finally ready for a peak performance to culminate his high school career.
“I knew I was in shape, but I didn’t know how good of shape I was in,” Brian said. “I was pleased with the outcome. I don’t think I could’ve done anything more.”
Brian’s performance certainly made his father proud. Joe O’Loughlin first coached his son in soccer, but Brian gravitated toward running as an eighth-grader at Rodney Thompson Middle School.
Joe O’Loughlin said he never encouraged his son to run track, but his success in the sport served as motivation for Brian.
Joe O’Loughlin said it all goes back to Nessitt, who died in February at 81.
“I had never run a day in my life,” Joe O’Loughlin said of the time before he met Nessitt. “I have no idea why I stepped up. But from that point on, the rest is history.”
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526