State qualifiers last season, Sandburg cross country runners Will Becker and Denis O’Callaghan hope their personal achievements will evolve into team accomplishments. Becker ran the 3200-meter in nine minutes, 32 seconds, recorded as the ninth fastest time in school history, while O’Callaghan led off Sandburg’s 4-x-800 meter relay that finished third in state and had the 11th fastest time in the country.
Names: Will Becker and Denis O’Callaghan
Age/year in school (incoming): Seniors
Hometown: Orland Park
Sport: Cross Country
How long have you run cross country? Since 6th grade (Becker); second season (O’Callaghan).
What do you love most about cross country?
Becker: The physical and mental challenge and reward that goes into it.
O’Callaghan: I love the family atmosphere of the team, and I also love the rewarding feeling you get after you finish a hard run, or get a personal record in a race.
What are your goals for the upcoming season? How will you achieve them?
Becker: I want to win a team trophy [top three in the state]. My personal goal would be completing double all-state in cross country and track. This will be accomplished through all our hard work and mental toughness. Cross is a team sport and one person can’t win a trophy. Every kid on the team has a job and we need everyone on board to accomplish our goals.
O’Callaghan: The goal of our team every year is to win state, so I will do my best to help the team do this. An individual goal is to go all-state, which means finishing in the top 25 at the state meet. To achieve these, I will train my hardest every day at practice.
How do you motivate yourself to train during the summer?
Becker: Just the thought [of] how good our team can be this year is perfect motivation to train as hard as I possibly can.
O’Callaghan: I just tell myself that if I don’t train as hard as I possibly can, somebody else out there is, and when race day comes around they will be able to beat me.
Who has inspired you most in your athletic endeavors?
Becker: First is my family. My family has taught me [that] toughness and drive are key to accomplishing my goals. My mom and dad were both very good runners so I have always wanted to follow them. Second off is my coach John O’Malley, who has given me the belief in myself to be as good as I can be. He has taught me more life lessons than I can count.
O’Callaghan: Definitely my parents. In all my years playing sports they have been to every single game or race. I couldn’t do it without their support.
If you didn’t run cross country, what would you be doing?
Becker: [Cross country] is my life and what I am always thinking about, so I couldn’t imagine it not being a part of my life.
O’Callaghan: I would be playing soccer for Sandburg. I quit soccer to focus on running year round.
What’s the best part about summer in Orland Park?
Becker: Having the tight-knit group of friends and teammates to hang out with.
O’Callaghan: Being able to hand out with my friends whenever I want without having to worry about school and homework. Also, we live right by the Swallow Cliff Trails, so we never have to run on the streets.
Who is your favorite athlete and why?
Becker: Bryshon Nellum [Olympic silver medalist sprinter]. His freshman year he was shot in the leg while attending USC. People said he would never compete at the level he was at again, but with his resilient attitude, he didn’t take no for an answer. After a few years of recovery, he made the Olympic team and later won what he always dreamed about, which was an individual NCAA championship in the 400-meter run.
O’Callaghan: Roy Keane [former Irish soccer player] because he is a great leader and extremely tough when it comes to working and playing hard.
How do you beat the heat during workouts?
Becker: I don’t even think about it. The only way that it can get in the way is if you let it.
O’Callaghan: I just make sure that I drink plenty of water throughout the day so I am never dehydrated.
Favorite quote or words to live by:
Becker: “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” – Steve Prefontaine
O’Callaghan: “A person who really wants something will find a way; a person who doesn’t will find an excuse.”
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