O’Connor Soars Into Immortality As a 3-Time Academic All-American

By Ronald Hanaki

Sports Editor

Senior Christina O’Connor cleared a height of 5’ 8” on her second attempt to finish in sixth place in the women’s high jump at the NCAA Division II Indoor Championships held in Birmingham, Alabama on Saturday, March 14. In so doing, O’Connor joined an exclusive club made up of ESU alumni Lynn Mayer, Karen Way Gaita, and Jan Blake to become the fourth three-time All-American in Warrior history.

Ever the competitor, O’Connor said, “I feed off the fans. The whole team was over there cheering. It was exciting.”

O’Connor was also named the women’s field MVP at the PSAC Indoor Championships, held two weeks prior to the NCAA Indoor Championships.

Now that the indoor season is over and the weather is improving, O’Connor is looking forward to competing outdoors. This season, ESU will host the PSAC Outdoor Championships from April 30 to May 2.

Coach Chris Merli is the head women’s track and field coach, and he said, “As impressive as her athletic accomplishments are, she is also an Academic All-American, which is even more impressive.”

A biology major with a pre-physical therapy concentration, O’Connor was one of six ESU student-athletes who were recognized for their academic achievements at a home basketball game in February.

O’Connor said, “It’s challenging to balance track and schoolwork, but I like the discipline. There will be a meet on Saturday, and on Sunday, I do homework.”

O’Connor has a 3.75 GPA, and he plans to go to graduate school for physical therapy.

Coach Merli said, “It’s so fulfilling to see young people achieve.”

Coach Merli added, “The track and field is the easy part. Getting people not to be self-conscious and understand who they are and getting them to believe in themselves is the hard part. Christina has done that.”

O’Connor began competing in the high jump in the seventh grade.  She said, “I really enjoyed it, and I keep making improvements every season, so it keeps me motivated.”

Both O’Connor and Coach Merli credit assistant coach Karen Way Gaita for developing O’Connor into the athlete that she is today.

Coach Merli said, “Christina really bought into the process and has achieved success all-around.”

O’Connor said, “I really like the coaches and how excited they get about your performances. They’re like your friends.”

Yet for someone who has seemingly done it all athletically, O’Connor has one last goal to fulfill. O’Connor said, “I would like to jump 6 feet before I graduate. Coach Gaita told me I could jump 6 feet.”

Don’t bet against her.

ESU’s next track and field meet is the Washington & Lee Invitational in Lexington, Virginia on March 20 and March 21.

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