By Erin Holly McDermott, Editor-in-chief ‘23 

It is no secret that senior Kayla O’Neil has been a top-performing athlete for many years. Her streak of high-scoring performances continued at the Cherokee Challenge in Marlton, New Jersey. Kayla represents a higher class of individuals, one that can maintain an impressive athletic career while balancing a class act of personality and academic achievement. 

When Drumbeats got the opportunity to sit down with the XC star, we asked, ‘Why running? Why is running the passion project you’ve chosen?’ Kayla responded with, 

“I discovered it in middle school…it has partially been because I’ve had great coaches. When I first started it was ‘wow I’m good at this, I’m winning all the races. As it got way more competitive in high school, it turned less from that into ‘running is something I should be proud of everyday no matter how terrible my school day was.” 

Running can be destructive in a handful of ways, however evaluating risk-reward management has become key in preserving athletes’ sanity. Transitioning from middle school friends to high school level competition was “difficult” for Kayla. Remaining connected to previous groups must be expected to be difficult. However, gaining a group from sports can prove to be influential in any athlete’s future. After speaking to the new cross-country coach, Mr. Tuhoy, Kayla possesses a unique ability to learn experience and advice from those around her. From the previous senior, Abby Churchill, Kayla learned,  

“Coming off of injury, to not be angry at yourself for what is happening. I really needed that at the time…I was just hard on myself about the injury.”

Kayla has evolved to feed off her team and their energy to plan runs, lead the team, and provide assistance to any athletes who need it. She is always willing to, “pick them [her team] up again.” These are some of the qualities that have made Kayla a great leader. While the team does not specifically assign captain’s positions, in the hopes of remaining partial, if anyone possesses that title it’s Kayla. 

Even while interviewing Mr. Tuohy, Drumbeats asked him, ‘What qualities do you look for in a student-athlete leader?’ He replied: “Kayla.” Her hard work and commitment over 4 dedicated years are evident in both her running and her leadership. Kayla remains a humble person before anything else. Drumbeats asked Kayla her opinion on the correlation between being a good person and being an athlete, she replied:  

“Not that you need to be an athlete to be a good person, but it gives you a level of commitment that you wouldn’t have otherwise…this is something I want to be doing and something that I care about…it gives you a sense of purpose.” 

Kayla truly represents what it means to be an Indian Hills student, others should continue to pay attention to her. It is not just about IH Cross-Country’s results, which are worthy of note, but more about the community created there. Ultimately, Kayla O’Neil is a key component in the team environment for Indian Hills Cross Country.