By Mike Dunn
McBAIN – It may have seemed inevitable that McBain senior Maggie O’Malley would run for Grand Valley State University. After all, her older siblings, twins Keegan and Klaudia O’Malley, both went there to compete in cross country and track distance events after graduating from McBain in 2019 and both have fared well to date and have enjoyed it very much.
While Maggie did ultimately sign on Wednesday afternoon to follow in the footsteps of Keegan and Klaudia and run for Grand Valley, she was determined initially to carve out her own path and that meant going to a different school.
“I always enjoyed my time visiting at Grand Valley and going to their practices and their meets,‘ she said after putting her signature on the dotted line Wednesday while flanked by her parents Tim and Tasha with many of her Rambler teammates looking on along with former teammates Brianna Eisenga and Daniel Quist, who are both running in college themselves now but were home on break and so came by for the occasion.
“The coaches were always super-nice and I got to know some of Keegan and Klaudia’s teammates too. It was very familiar to me and I liked it a lot but I thought at first the best way to establish my own identity would be to go somewhere else.‘
Maggie, a two-time All-State cross country runner with a personal-best time of 18:47 who came in 14th place overall in the Division 3 state finals at Brooklyn this year and an All-Conference runner and state qualifier in track in the distance relays and individually in the 3200 run and the 1600 run, had plenty of offers from different colleges to consider. She was leaning heavily toward Aquinas College for a while.
When it came down to it, though, she realized there were way more positives than negatives about accepting the offer to run at Grand Valley.
“My brother and sister both encouraged me to go there and that meant a lot to me,‘ she said.
“It’ll be really nice to have their support once I'm down there and I already know the coaches and some of my future teammates and I just love the place. I’m really happy with the decision.‘
Maggie’s mother Tasha is also her cross country coach at McBain. As a mom, she’s thrilled that Maggie is following in the footsteps of Keegan and Klaudia, though the decision was completely up to her. As a coach, she believes Maggie will fit in very well at Grand Valley.
“It’s a thrill for me as a mom and a coach to see Maggie signing today,‘ Tasha said.
“I’m happy for her. She works very hard and she devoted a lot of time in the off-season putting in the miles in preparation for her senior year, knowing she would be going on to run in college. One of her goals was to go to a D2 school and she has that opportunity now. She not only knows Keegan and Klaudia at Grand Valley but a lot of the other kids, too, and the coaches. She’ll be a nice addition there both in cross and track.‘
After track season was canceled last spring, Maggie ramped up her workout regimen, running four to five miles a day to keep in excellent running shape. During the summer, she intensified her workouts, adding in some weight training and speed workouts as well.
By the time cross country season started in late August, Maggie was more than ready to make her mark and she did. She finished as runner-up overall in the Highland Conference this season and hit her personal-best time of 18:47 in the pre-regional meet at Buckley before earning a top-five finish in the regional meet the following week and then her 14th-place finish on Nov. 7 at state.
This spring she is hoping to continue her track career for the Ramblers, which was temporarily put on hold because of the pandemic. As a sophomore in the spring of 2019, Maggie joined with her sister Klaudia and Ashley Schierbeek and Brianna Eisenga to set a school-record time of 9:54.30 in the 3200 relay and earn All-State honors in that event with a sixth-place finish in the D3 state meet.
Maggie anticipates vying in the distance relays in track at Grand Valley as well as the 3200 run and the 1600 run.
McBain track coach Susan Maloney believes Maggie will be a steady contributor in those events at the next level.
“Maggie is very competitive and has a phenomenal work ethic,‘ Maloney said.
“She showed her willingness to sacrifice for the team in her freshman and sophomore years when she would do the 3200 run and then do a leg in the 4x4 relay (in back-to-back events) with just a limited time between the races. That shows the level of her dedication to the sport and to the team.
“She’s been a key part of two Highland championships for us and I’m looking forward to having her for one more season this spring.‘
Maggie goes into her senior season in track as the defending Highland Conference champion in the 3200 run with a personal-best time of 12:24.82, and she brings an outstanding personal-best time of 5:39.72 in the 1600 run from her sophomore season.