By Chris Dobrowolski
Special for Second Half
MCBAIN — It’s been said that records are made to be broken.
McBain twins Keegan and Klaudia O’Malley seem to have taken that notion to heart.
The seniors’ names are all over the school record books for track & field as they wind down their standout careers. Klaudia holds the all-time marks for the 800 meters (2 minutes, 17 seconds), 1,600 (5:04), 3,200 (11:06) and as an integral part of the Ramblers’ 3,200 relay team (9:57), while Keegan broke a 42-year-old school record in the 3,200 earlier this season in a time of 9:33, shaving five seconds off what had been the longest-standing boys track & field record on the school’s board.
“They hold all those distance records,” said McBain boys track & field head coach Pat Maloney. “Going down in history, they’re going to be talked about. People will be compared to them for years to come.
“It’s a lot of hard work behind the scenes. People don’t see how many miles they put in year after year after year.”
The O’Malleys certainly come by their running prowess honestly. Their father, Tim, has been the cross country coach at Cadillac for the past 18 years and has spent the last seven years as an assistant track coach at McBain. Their mother, Tasha, coaches cross country at McBain. Both parents have been active in competitive running as well, with Tasha having competed in multiple Boston Marathons among myriad other races.
“Our life pretty much revolves around running — in a fun way, not in a bad way,” said Tim O’Malley. “My wife raced a lot. I would just take the kids and pace them in the 5Ks that they wanted to run. They seemed to like it.”
The O’Malley children – including Maggie, the twins’ younger sister by two years – didn’t know any differently than being immersed in a running lifestyle.
“I’ve grown up with running,” said Klaudia.
Tim O’Malley jokingly says Keegan and Klaudia’s running careers actually began with running as a form of babysitting. Even when they were as young as 7 years old, the O’Malley twins would tag along with their father to practice. They attended cross country camps with the team, would run right along with the group, and even get to compete in open races following meets.
“I loved it and his team was so supportive, so I just got into it,” said Keegan.
Not only did the twins enjoy running, but it became quickly apparent that they were good at it too. Really good, in fact. Keegan and Klaudia started establishing school records in elementary school, and that continued as they moved into middle school and then high school. No one was surprised to see them become dominant runners at the high school level, to say the least.
“They hold all those distance records,” said Maloney. “People have been waiting for them to shine, and they haven’t disappointed by any means.”
Klaudia is the four-time Highland Conference champion in the 800 and 1,600, and a three-time winner of the 3,200 — she didn’t run that event this year. She has qualified for the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals four times in the 1,600, three times with the 3,200 relay team, and twice each in the 800, 3,200 and with the 1,600 relay, earning all-state honors a total of six times across four events. She is qualified for the Finals in the 800, 1,600, 1,600 relay and 3,200 relay this season. Three of the four school records she holds came as a result of breaking her own record-setting times.
“Last year I didn’t feel as confident, but this year I feel a lot stronger and a lot more confident with my running,” said Klaudia. “It’s sweet to show, just because I’m from a small school, you can still have a lot of talent.”
Keegan is a three-time league champion in the 3,200 and twice has won the 1,600 and ran with the winning 3,200 relay. He also has four Regional crowns to his credit — twice winning the 3,200. He is qualified for the Finals in the 1,600, 3,200 and with the 3,200 relay. He battled an injury a year ago but has seemed to make up for any lost time with a dynamic senior season. That includes shattering Ron Eising’s school record in the 3,200 that had been around since 1977 with a stunning performance at the Shepherd Invitational that eclipsed Keegan’s personal best by 16 seconds.
“It was kind of like a dream come true because the guy who had the record (Eising) is very supportive of me,” said Keegan. “He came to the track and mentored me. Told me he wanted me to beat it. He wanted me to take after him. I put in a lot of training in the offseason, and I was really surprised when I got it, but I knew I could do it. I wasn’t terribly close. It was kind of a big PR (personal record).”
The twins will complete their high school careers at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals at Jenison High School, then are taking their talents to Grand Valley State University in the fall. They say they are close and relish the idea of heading in the same direction for the next chapter of their careers.
“At first I didn’t really want to (go to the same school),” said Klaudia. “But senior year got going, and we got running together again. Now I’m glad I chose the same college as him. I’ll have a buddy there right away and I can still watch him and cheer him on at meets.”
Maloney has seen the work Keegan and Klaudia put into running, and he’s witnessed the records fall. He will be watching keenly to see how the O’Malleys perform at the collegiate level.
“They’re going to do a great job representing McBain, their family and northern Michigan runners,” he said. “I think they’ll be right in the heat of things for the next four years.”
Chris Dobrowolski has covered northern Lower Peninsula sports since 1999 at the Ogemaw County Herald, Alpena News, Traverse City Record-Eagle and currently as sports editor at the Antrim Kalkaska Review since 2016. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) The O’Malley twins, Klaudia and Keegan, run their respective events during last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals. (Middle) Klaudia O’Malley, second from right, gets ready to start the 800. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com.)
BLISSFIELD – Last fall, June Miller raced for an MHSAA cross country title at Michigan International Speedway. During the winter she played in the Division 3 Basketball Final at the Breslin Center. In the spring, she competed at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 track & field championships in Kent City.
As she embarks on her senior year at Blissfield Community Schools in southeast Michigan, Miller isn’t concerned about an encore.
“I don’t worry about topping my junior season,” she said. “I don’t feel the need to. I’ll fight for it to the best of my ability, but if I don’t make it that’s okay. There were a lot of factors that went into last year, and I can’t control all of them this year.
“I’ll leave my best out there and know that I gave it my all, and in the end that’s the true accomplishment. If it takes me that far or further, then great. If not, that’s okay.”
Miller’s remarkable run to MHSAA Finals in three sports remains even more impressive when considering she had eight goals and five assists playing defense for the Royals soccer team.
“Shows up to work, busts her tail every practice, every game,” said Blissfield girls basketball coach Ryan Gilbert. “Never have to worry about June Miller.”
Miller is as steady an athlete as they come, never getting too high or too low in pressure situations. In basketball, Gilbert said Miller never met a shot she didn’t like. Miller started all 29 games last season, leading the team in 3-pointers.
Gilbert said Miller is even-keeled.
“It takes a while to get into the ‘June Miller circle,’ but I’m almost in,” he said. “This is her senior year; this is my year. She’s very funny when you get to know her and has a brilliant mind.
“She wants to win over everything,” Gilbert said.
Miller wasn’t the fastest runner on the cross country team last fall – that spot would belong to her younger sister, Hope. June has no problem with that.
“I love running with my sister,” she said. “She’s an amazing and incredibly kind person. Her dedication to running inspires me and keeps me fighting for it. We train together sometimes and she’s the one that pushes me, and I love that.
“I always knew she’d be faster than me someday, and I couldn’t be prouder of how fast she’s become and how much she’s achieved. (People might) think I’d hold some resentment for her beating me while I’m older, but she’s lived in my shadow for years and I’m so glad she’s been able to find her place that she can dominate.”
Blissfield is eyeing a big season in cross country after winning a Regional and just missing the top 10 at the Final a year ago. The Miller sisters are a big reason for the giddiness.
“I’m ready to leave it all out there,” Miller said. “It’s my senior season, and I want to go out strong. I think the end goal for all of us is to really push it this season and improve with each race so by the time we hit Regionals we’re in the best shape physically and mentally so we can leave it all on the course to get to states again.”
Because of her work schedule this summer, Miller missed some of the team workouts but was able to get the details from her sister and went out on her own time and trained to build up her mileage in preparation for the season.
“I think the experience from last year will give us something to fight for,” she said. “It allows us to look at the season with our end goal being the state meet. It gives us a passion and something to fight for.”
Blissfield cross country coach Ryan Bills called Miller a strong competitor.
“She is fun kid,” he said. “You never know which June you’re going to get – funny, chatty June or serious, no-nonsense June. Either way she always gives it her all during competition, which is why she has seen so much success the past year.”
The four-sport athlete spent the first couple of weeks of summer refreshing her body before kicking it into high gear.
She did take some time to reflect on all the places she got to play and compete last year and is grateful to be part of a team that helped her reach those places.
“It was a unique experience,” she said. “When I’m playing basketball or running track and cross country, I’m not focused on where I am physically – instead I’m in my head focused on what I need to do.
“Once you get to someplace, you stop thinking about getting there and you move on to the next step of being there and doing what you need to there.”
Miller is one of the top students in her class. She’s currently trying to decide whether she wants to pursue playing soccer in college. She wants to major in business and minor in sustainability, eventually getting a master’s degree in architecture.
“I want to be a sustainable design architect,” she said, “who can better the world through the art of architecture.”
Miller’s future looks bright, as does the outlook for this athletic year. In all three sports for which she reached the Finals last year, the Royals have enough returning talent to make lengthy runs again.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Miller said, about four days before the first cross country event of the season. “I want to make it to all those state tournaments again, but I want to do it with my teammates because they’re the ones that make it memorable and something to remember forever.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Blissfield’s June Miller (750) races during a cross country meet last fall. (Middle) Miller pulls up for a jumper during last season’s basketball postseason run. (Cross country photo by Deloris Clark-Osborne; basketball photo by Gary Sullivan.)