Undeterred by sub-zero temperatures and a snow-covered course, Florida State senior Breandan O Neill punctuated an outstanding cross country season with a 22nd-place finish Sunday in the senior division at the 19th running of the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
O Neill was Ireland’s top finisher from a starting field which included 92 runners representing 23 countries, covering the six-lap course in 30:42.
“I ran most of the race in around 10th-12th but faded back a bit in the last 3k,” said O Neill, who was nonetheless pleased with his performance. “Satisfied with the run, but I was surprised how easy it felt running in the top 10 for the first half.”
O Neill’s performance, despite coming against a stellar field, should not have come as a surprise. The second-year Seminole who has a year of track & field eligibility remaining, was the runner-up at both the ACC and NCAA South Region Championships, then earned his first All-American honor with a 28th-place finish at the NCAA Championships meet in Louisville, Ky. last month. His performance helped the Seminole men to a fifth-place finish – the second-best in program history – in the team standings.
He earned his first appearance on the Irish senior team shortly after helping the Seminoles put a cap on an outstanding campaign. One of the Irish teammates he beat was David Rooney, who runs for McNeese State and was seventh at the NCAA Championships.
The weather wasn’t the only test O Neill faced in getting from Tallahassee to Hungary. He spent 35 hours traveling and arrived early Saturday morning, but a fire at the Budapest Airport left him temporarily without luggage. It ended up in Berlin, Germany.
This was O Neill’s second appearance at the European Cross Country Championships. He was the top finisher for Ireland’s U23 team in his last appearance. The continued success on the big stage has him excited about the future.
“I’m excited to work on my weaknesses and put together a bigger performance in the next couple of years,” he said.