Jaspers Talk: The O’Brien Brothers


For Liam and Nick O’Brien, running in college wasn’t always the plan. “We got cut from the freshman basketball team and the coach told us to try track,” Liam said. “We ran track in eighth grade, but all we did was sprinting and we really didn’t take it seriously,” Nick said.

It was soccer, not track, that they had planned on pursuing at the college level. “It was really hard to leave soccer,” Nick said. “We had been doing it since we were four years old. So junior year we also did varsity soccer at the same time as doing cross country.”

Nick O’Brien. Go Jaspers/Courtesy

Doing two sports at once proved an exhausting effort and so they made the decision after their final soccer season to focus on running. “Soccer was year round because we played on a club team,” Liam said. “Once we dropped it we could focus on running. We weren’t as tired. It was relaxing not to have the stress of both.”

As they began to focus on running they started to look at the possibility of running at college as well. “We had originally looked [at MC] to play soccer,” Liam said. “When we switched to track we thought we would look here for [it]. We had heard about Manhattan from our high school, CBA.”

After visiting the school Liam and Nick liked it for both the running aspect as well as the academics. Academics were very important to them in the selection process.

“For me,” Nick said, “I basically evaluated each school on academics and if they had my major or not. There were other schools that were interested in us, but a lot of them didn’t have mechanical engineering, my major, so I didn’t even think about them.”

Nick also considered the Coast Guard Academy, “then I found out I’m not a big fan of open water,” he said. He hasn’t lost this interest though, as he is a member of MC’s Air Force ROTC. “I actually just contracted about 3 or 4 weeks ago.” Nick said that the balance of athletics, academics, and ROTC is hard, but manageable. “Its something I’ve always wanted to do since I was in seventh grade, to serve. I’m happy to make the sacrifice because I want it to be part of my life.”

Liam also balances running with a challenging academic program. “I was originally going to do engineering. Then a month later I decided to switch to biology and do pre-med,” he said. “Its just about making yourself do the work,” he said. “At that point running comes second, I’m here for academics. I mean, especially me, I want to be a doctor. I’m not going to be running my whole life. Grades come first” he said.

Liam and Nick run cross country, indoor, and outdoor track for the Jaspers. The cross country season was not as successful for them as they would have wished.

“I got sick in the middle of the season, that kind of threw everything out of whack. It was still good, because we got good training in,” Liam said. “As a team we did really well,” he said.

Liam O’Brien. Go Jaspers/Courtesy

“We were really proud of all of our teammates” Nick said.

The new season also saw some changes for the team, as Kerri Gallagher was named head coach of the men’s and women’s cross country, mid-distance and distance programs in July.

“I like her a lot. She came in and knew what she wanted to do,” Liam said. “She has a lot of experience from the professional world of running and from coaching at American”

“She came in right away with a plan. I bought into it and so did everyone else. Right from day one it was one hundred percent going after it,” Nick said.

“For me this was the first official year of running or racing cross country in college,” Nick said. “It was definitely an increase in mileage from what I’m used to.”

What they are used to is mid-distance track events. Both Liam and Nick race the 1500 meters and the mile, as well as the 800 meters during the track seasons. This means they sometimes race each other in meets.

“It happened once last year,” Liam said. “It’s usually pretty close, and if one wins its switched the next time.”

“You don’t want to lose that race,” Nick said.

They both agreed that having a brother on the team is a good thing.

“Since we are identical twins…I know that if he can do it, I can. It’s a big motivator.” Nick said.

“I like it,” Liam said. “I’ve never really known anything different.”