On Columbus Day, twins Kate O’Neill ’03 and Laura O’Neill ’03 found themselves in a familiar place.
The sisters returned to their home state of Massachusetts to compete against 5,160 other runners, including some of the fastest women in the country, in the largest all-female 10K race in America.
Kate O’Neill took second and Laura O’Neill took fourth in the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women in Boston, which served as the U.S. Track and Field Women’s 10K National Championship. For the twins, this order of finish was nothing new. In the 10,000 meter run at the 2003 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Kate and Laura O’Neill finished second and fourth respectively.
On Monday, Kate O’Neill averaged 5:19 per mile for 6.2 miles, finishing with a time of 33:02, 28 seconds behind first-place Elva Dryer. Laura O’Neill, averaging 5:22 per mile, finished 19 seconds behind her sister with a time of 33:21. For their performances, Kate and Laura O’Neill earned $5,100 and $1,900 respectively.
“I’m really excited,” Kate O’Neill said of her performance. “It was a surprise, but a nice surprise.”
Although it was the fourth post-collegiate race for the sisters, it was the first one of such high quality and significance.
Dryer, 32, ran for the United States Olympic Team in Sydney three years ago, competing in the 5000 meter run. Fifth-place
McGregor, who won the NCAA cross country meet in 1998, ran for the U.S. team at the World Cross Country Championships and at the World Indoor Track Championships in the 3000 meter run. Both O’Neills also beat Carrie Tollefson, five-time NCAA champion at Villanova, and Tatiana Khmeleva, who has run 31:32 for the 10K.
“It wasn’t as deep a field as it usually is, but it was still a good field,” said Mark Young ’68, the Yale women’s track and cross country head coach who continues to train the O’Neills.
Kate O’Neill said she and her sister started together just behind the lead pack. They maintained their position for about two and a half miles, and, feeling good, Kate moved into second place. Laura was not far behind, missing third by only 5 seconds.
Young was extremely pleased with their performance and said that it is phenomenal for two runners just out of college to place so well against older and more experienced professionals.
The O’Neills, Young said, just finalized a contract with Nike, so Monday’s race was a debut of sorts. Now the sisters must adjust to the world of elite professional running.
“I didn’t really know what to expect since it’s so different from college,” Kate said. “I really miss being on a team. That’s the biggest difference.”
The sisters will continue to train with a long-term focus on the World Cross Country trials in February.
Their next race will be a cross country race in Boston in a week and a half.