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Like most recent college graduates these days, Jimmy O'Brien is having a difficult time landing a full-time job. In the meantime, O'Brien is staying busy with a full-time hobby.
O'Brien hasn't stopped running since he graduated as a two-time state track champion in 2005 from Eastwood, first competing at Ohio Northern University and now as a member of the Indiana Invaders, an elite-level track and field club based in Indianapolis.
Athletically, O'Brien hopes to progress to the point that he's a contender come 2012 to represent the United States in the 800-meter race at the London Olympics. Occupationally, his goal is to soon find a job nearby in the mechanical engineering field.
"It shouldn't really affect my training," O'Brien said. "I just need to be a little more careful with time management, I suppose, just to make sure I get my training in every day and get my work done."
Thus far, O'Brien, 23, has done well since joining the Invaders in the fall. He qualified for the U.S. Indoor Championships in February but posted a poor time and did not advance to the finals. This spring, competing in outdoor events, O'Brien won three meets, including one at Ohio State's Jesse Owens Stadium, the same location O'Brien won two state championships during his high school career.
Despite his success in the outdoor season, O'Brien was unable to achieve a time good enough to place him in the national meet. Twice last month in Indianapolis, O'Brien attempted to reach the "A" standard qualifying time of 1:47.5. On June 16, he posted a time of
1:48.97, and on June 19 a time of 1:48.30. Nonetheless, it was a productive inaugural season.
"He's done great so far," Invaders coach Greg Harger said. "He's been here for a short period of time and is just getting oriented. Post college track and field is just a little bit different than college track and field, especially when you come from a small college."
Runners of O'Brien's caliber don't regularly end up competing at Division III colleges. At ONU, he garnered 10 All-American honors between track and cross country, including national championships in the indoor 800 his sophomore and senior seasons. Perhaps O'Brien would have attended a Division I program had any showed considerable interest in him, but by the spring of his senior year, at which O'Brien improved his stock by winning the 800 state championship, most colleges' scholarship situations for the upcoming season had been set. ONU had made its way to the top of his list.
"I was just making sure the college was the right fit for me," he said. "Academics, cost, and location was most important. Ohio Northern was just a good fit for me. I never regretted that choice, and I had a very good college career. I pretty much improved all through college."
It was in 2008, during his senior year at ONU, when O'Brien ran a time just shy of giving him a berth in the Olympic trials that inspired him to want to continue competing after college.
Harger was intrigued by O'Brien, believing that a successful small-division athlete like O'Brien has a considerable upside because he hasn't been blessed with the same training and competitive opportunities as a D-I athlete. This past year, Harger says, has been somewhat of a trial period to examine how O'Brien's body responds to different training and recovery techniques.
"It usually takes a whole year to settle down and harvest some rewards and transition to being a postcollegiate athlete," Harger said.
Sometimes it takes that long to find a job too. O'Brien senses he's getting close though.
"I had one interview," he said. "It seems there are more and more openings."
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