O'Brien Follows In Mom's Championship Footsteps

Staff Writer

It runs — make that hurdles — in the family.

Divine Savior Holy Angels High School freshman Jadin O’Brien lined up in the 300 hurdles Wisconsin state championship several weeks ago, about to carry on a remarkable family tradition.

“It was nerve-wracking,” her mother Leslie (Moorman) O’Brien, a seven-time state champion track athlete at Minster, said. “Sitting in the stands, I think I hurdled two rows to get down to the fence to yell for her once the race started”

Mom’s not exaggerating, either. She’s one of Ohio’s best high school hurdlers ever. She’s also one of Minster’s finest all-around athletes at a school that prides itself on its athletic excellence.

But that lineage meant nothing now. Jadin was writing her own history on this track in La Crosse, Wisconsin. After a slow start on the first two hurdles, the Holy Angels freshman rocketed past her competition with a scorching finish that the nearest hurdler about a second behind.

“She killed it,” Leslie said. “It was so fun to watch her win that race.”

With a 43.22-second time and a state championship, the family still hasn’t lost in the 300 hurdles in state championship races — a winning tradition doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon.

Jadin was a two-sport athlete in the spring, playing soccer and running track in junior high.  Leslie said when the decision came to choosing between the two this season, she had hoped Jadin chose track.  

“We always said when she was born that she came out running,” Leslie, a mother of seven, said.

The win brought back memories of Leslie’s own prolific career on the track back in Ohio. Back in Minster.

Leslie burst onto the Ohio high school hurdling scene as a Minster freshman in 1986, taking home the state championship. It started a string of championships that ranked her among the best in state history and earned her seven state championship medals. Over her four years at Minster she never lost a 300 hurdles race.

 Now her daughter is following a similar championship path as the mother and daughter work together as coach and athlete. Leslie became the hurdling coach a week before the spring season started when Holy Angels didn’t have an instructor specializing in the event. Few are more qualified to help Jadin not only deal with the technical aspects of the event, but the  expectations.

“I remember the pressure to win and I just want her to enjoy it,” Leslie said. “But she’s a lot like me and she’s competitive. She wants to win.”

Both have done nothing but win as hurdlers. While at Minster, Leslie became just the fourth girl in Ohio history to win the same event four straight years in 1989 after she captured the 300 hurdle title in 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1989. Minster standout distance runner Sunni Olding matched the feat in 2004 in the 1600 meter run. To date, 15 girls and 21 athletes total in Ohio history have won four state championships in an event for four straight years.

She excelled in whatever sport she competed. Leslie was named the most valuable player of the Midwest Athletic Conference in volleyball, basketball and track during her senior season. She went on to be a captain at Bowling Green State University. Moorman made it to the state level in 15 events over four years and earned All-Ohio honors in 14 of those 15 events and won seven state championships in both individual and relay events.

“I remember the sea of orange in the Horseshoe around the corner at the 200 meter mark, that feeling that the entire town has your back,” Leslie said. “I wish Jadin could have that. She certainly hears me talk about it enough.”

Now a state champion as a freshman, Jadin’s goal is to win the state title in the hurdles all four years. She’s already creating her own memories and stories to pass down.