When senior Tyler O’Brien arrived on Marquette’s campus as a freshman in the fall of 2007, he looked to make a statement about his potential as a runner early on. Five years later, O’Brien has cemented a legacy with his name atop of most Marquette sprinting records leaving big shoes to fill next winter.
O’Brien posted good times as a junior in high school, but it was not until his senior year that he expressed interest in coming to Marquette as a sprinter. His brother, Colin O’Brien, is two years older than Tyler, but they both ran the same events in high school and were teammates. Colin would go on to run for Syracuse, while Marquette landed Tyler for some friendly competition in the Big East within the family.
Coach Bert Rogers recalls O’Brien’s arrival and quick transformation into a leader with the guidance of a strong upperclassmen presence on the team.
“He established himself as a leader in terms of his performances right off the bat. His role on the team was this goofy little freshman that was really fast,” Rogers said. “Over his career, he’s really developed into one of the best leaders I’ve ever coached.”
The reputation of being fast was established when he stepped on the track at Notre Dame for his collegiate debut. O’Brien would run the fastest 60-meter dash (6.94 seconds) and 200-meter dash (21.98 seconds) in school history.
O’Brien credits the energy he was filled with as the main factor that led him to that strong time in the 60-meter dash, which he has not broken since. He believes his break-out performance came near the end of his freshman year during the outdoor season.
“When I opened up my 200 at 21.5 seconds, I knew that this was going to be a good year for me,” O’Brien said. “I placed fourth at the conference championship that year. I didn’t expect to make it to regionals, but I ran the school record in the 200 at the time and qualified. That’s when I realized I made my noise in the Big East.”
It was during outdoor season last year that O’Brien ran a race that everyone on the team would remember. Fueled by anger after he did not make the finals for the 100-meter dash at the Big East Conference Championship, he took out his aggression in the 200 by running the second-fastest time that day, 21.05 seconds.
His consistently strong showings would earn him captain honors starting during the 2011-’12 indoor season. O’Brien would only get better and raise his mark in the 200-meter dash with a personal best of 21.87 seconds at the Blue and Gold Invitational to start the season.
One of O’Brien’s final goals for his career is to make it back to the NCAA Mid-East Regional. With just a few weeks left in the season, junior Kyle Winter is starting to realize the big void that O’Brien will leave behind for next year.
“(O’Brien) is a huge part of our team. It’s going to be tough not having him,” Winter said. “A lot of people are going to have to step up and make their performances count and do well. We can do it.”
The recruiting class for the upcoming year has been finalized, and Rogers feels strong about the motivation that O’Brien provides for the recruits with his name all over the record books.
“I feel good about the legacy that (O’Brien) has set for those future recruits to look at the record books and hear stories about this little red-headed kid that was really fast,” Rogers said.