When Kyle O’Connell finished third in the 55-meter hurdles at the indoor track state meet, he immediately started looking ahead to the spring.
But soon after, it looked like he might miss the spring altogether. O’Connell tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his knee. The initial prognosis wasn’t good.
“It was a devastating injury,” said Hendricken coach Jim Doyle. “It looked like it would be season-ending.”
It wasn’t. O’Connell worked his way back early enough to qualify for states. Then he shocked everybody by winning the state title in the 110 hurdles.
“They said I wouldn’t be able to run the rest of the season, but the whole time, I felt like I’d be able to run,” O’Connell said. “They couldn’t tell me otherwise.”
Still, running and winning were two different things. But after finishing seventh in the preliminaries, O’Connell surged in the finals and won with a time of 15.73 seconds. He edged Cranston East’s Angel Camilo by .03 seconds.
“Honestly, nobody on the staff really thought he could win it,” Doyle said. “I thought on a good day, he might have a shot at second or third, but he really came up with a great race.”
O’Connell couldn’t have been happier. He was confident coming in, but the championship still wasn’t expected.
“I knew, on a good day, I’d be able to do it,” he said. “But my knee is a little shaky so I was worried. It felt really good to win.”
The championship finished out a strong high-school track career for O’Connell, who came to Hendricken focused on soccer. He ended up as one of the Hawks’ top track standouts.
“I’ve always been that fast guy on the soccer team so I went I got to high school, I decided I would do track,” O’Connell said. “One of my friends said I should try the hurdles, and that’s what I did.”
O’Connell will head to URI in the fall, and he plans to run track for the Rams.