Tim O’Neil has gained some notoriety in the Arizona track community after working with some of the state’s top athletes at Brophy and Xavier.
Team titles, state records and individual champions were the tangible payoffs, but it’s not the real reason he does what he does.
“I started at Brophy because there was a need and I enjoyed working with the kids,” said O’Neil, who is expected to be named Mountain Pointe’s new track coach after board approval. “It was rewarding and fulfilling and that’s why I kept coming back. Everyone knows about Devon Allen and Bobby Grant (of Brophy).
“But it is just as much fun and rewarding to work with kids that never run track after graduation again. They gain confidence and enjoy their time to take with them the rest of their life. That’s why coaches do what they do.”
O’Neil, who graduated from Sunnyslope before competing at Mesa Community College, Arizona State and Nevada-Reno, takes over for Jeff Griffin, who stepped down to concentrate on his football duties as a defensive coach.
O’Neil is known as being a hurdles specialist, but he competed in the decathlon so he has a feel for just about every event.
“I have had some talented sprinters and hurdlers, but we had some good discus competitors like Trent Murphy and others,” he said. “I am solid with most events. We want to look and see what the best opportunity for success is for the athlete.
“It’s different for everyone and we need to figure it out.”
Mountain Pointe Principal Bruce Kipper said the recommendation of O’Neil, who has been hired by the school to work in its at-risk program and will work with students who are struggling academically, only made sense with his body of work at Brophy and Xavier.
“Coach O’Neil brings a wealth of knowledge and years of experience to Mountain Pointe,” Kipper said. “He has worked with some of the top track coaches and athletes in the country. I am excited for the possibilities in the future.”
Who wouldn’t be with some of the talent the Pride should have coming back in the spring.
It starts with Paul Lucas, who owns the school record in the 100, 200 and 400, and has two years to improve, but the Pride has plenty of other athletes ready to reach the next level as well.
The girls will have competitors like Rees Young, Ashle Burns, who is coming off ACL surgery, Trey Lauer, AJ Davalos, and plenty of others to keep the success going.
The key figure, however, will be Lucas who challenged Brophy’s Allen for top track athlete in Arizona this year as a sophomore.
Lucas has goals of becoming one of the most decorated athletes to ever come out of Arizona. He’s shown the ability to do it just like Allen did under O’Neil’s guidance.
“I haven’t had a chance to meet him, but it is clear he is very talented,” O’Neil said. “I am excited to have the opportunity to make him better. We will set some goals, come up with a plan on how to improve, and have fun. We don’t want it to be a grind.
“It’s a tough, hard sport and you are in the block by yourself. You can’t hide. I want to have a blast, and I hope if you ask everyone I worked with they’d agree, up to that point so they can compete at the highest level without being tense or burned out.”
O’Neil, who has been married to Jennifer for 30 years, looks forward to working with horizontal jump coach Larry Todd in order to push the program to a new level.
He hopes to meet with prospective athletes soon after the Aug. 21 board meeting in order to start the process of getting know each other. While every sport has become a year-round venture he believes the high school experience is about doing as many things as possible.
“It depends on the individuals and what their goals are,” O’Neil said. “I think there is a benefit to getting away from your primary sport. They can use that time away to reenergize. With that said you can’t argue with the results of athletes who concentrate on one sport. Feb. 10 through May 5 isn’t a lot of time, but I guarantee during that time we work very hard to be our very best.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.