LIBERTY, Ill. — Jared Schmidt’s excitement is understandable.
Despite a spring in which the weather has been “absolutely atrocious,” the Liberty girls track and field team has piled up a number of school records in individual events. Now the weather is ripe for running as the Eagles head to Friday’s Class 1A Beardstown Sectional.
“So now that it’s, you know, 85 degrees and sunny, I’m kind of excited to see how the rest of the year progresses,” Schmidt said.
Shannon O’Neil is one of the reasons for that excitement.
The senior sprinter and hurdler has set three school records this season — 15.91 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles, 48.27 seconds in the 300 hurdles and 1:02.05 in the 400 dash — in her first season running track since her freshman year.
Admittedly more successful than she anticipated, O’Neil believes her training has been the key to success.
“I think bodybuilding really helped me get my strength up and be more athletic than I ever was,” O’Neil said. “So just that and having that base right now has really changed everything. I mean, my nutrition is perfect right now, too.”
That’s right, O’Neil is a competitive bodybuilder.
On April 23, O’Neil won two categories in her first competition — the Organization of Competitive Bodybuilders Spring Natural in DeKalb, Ill. She competed in the figure novice and figure open categories. Judging is based on good leanness and conditioning with full, healthy and shapely muscularity, good balance, proportion, and symmetry of both muscularity and conditioning, and presentation.
Like her track success, O’Neil was surprised by the results from her first competitive event.
“It was really nerve-racking,” O’Neil said. “But I met a lot of really cool people in the back that really helped, like, calm my nerves. And once I got on stage, I’ve been practicing for so long that it was like second nature. I knew what I was doing. It really surprised me, too. because now I’m a professional bodybuilder at 17 years old, which is very hard.”
Now comes the planning on when and where to compete again.
“I’m planning on doing another show in about a year because I need to take time off to kind of rebuild,” ONeil said. “So I plan on doing my next one next year, and then that one will qualify me for, like, the biggest national natural competition.”
The natural competitions, according to OCB guidelines, prohibit the use of anabolic steroids.
Schmidt isn’t surprised by her success.
“It’s really cool,” he said. “I just like the fact that the kids do things outside of track and cross country. But (bodybuilding) is a first for me. But at the same time, knowing the kid that she is and how much she’s been into lifting for the last four or five years, I mean, it’s not surprising at all. She’s just an incredible athlete overall.”
O’Neil plans to attend Culver-Stockton College, where she received the prestigious Pillars of Excellence Scholarship. Recipients must show leadership skills and a dedication to community service.
Before heading to the Hill, she and her Liberty teammates have to focus on their pursuit of an appearance in the Class 1A state track meet.
“I definitely feel like a couple of us will definitely go,” O’Neil said.
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