Ursuline Academy senior Siobhan O’Sullivan has all the tools to be one of the best shot putters in the state, according to throwing coach Kevin Enos.
After a breakout spring season when she popped a throw of 38 feet, 5½ inches in finishing third at the Eastern Mass. Division 4 meet, the Quincy resident has consistently hit the mark this indoor season with her best throw of 39-9 tops in the state heading into the Feb. 16 Division 5 Championships at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston. O’Sullivan won that meet with a throw of 36-11.
“She has the best release you’ll ever see,” said Enos, a former Franklin track and field coach who has been an assistant at Ursuline, a Catholic girls’ high school in Dedham, for seven years. “She lets go of the shot so high that it just flies out of her hand. It doesn’t even look like she’s putting any effort into it.”
But what appears at times to be seamless for the 6-foot, 1-inch O’Sullivan is actually the product of six years of dedication to her craft. She said she tried the shot put for the first time in seventh grade as something to do after basketball season, then found she really liked it. It was last spring when her best throws jumped from 33 or 34 feet to 36 feet, and then to 38, that she determined the shot put was something she wanted to dedicate as much time to as she could.
She made what she said was the hard decision to forgo her senior year of basketball as the team’s starting center, and to instead throw indoors for the first time.
“I started to get better throws and started to think that I could actually do this in college and get really good at it,” O’Sullivan said. “I really wanted to play basketball, but at this point I thought the shot put might be a more worthwhile focus. I still love basketball and show up to all the games I can. But I thought I needed that extra season of throwing for my freshman year collegiately. I wanted to be able to keep throwing and lifting every day.”
O’Sullivan signed a National Letter of Intent to Division 1 Bucknell University in December and has since built on the leap she took at the end of the last outdoor season.
“I’ve gotten a lot more consistent getting throws in,” she said. “Last spring, I was getting one big throw a meet. But this year I have been consistent getting around the same distance on every throw.”
O’Sullivan said one setback last spring has helped motivate her heading toward this postseason. While she hit the 38-5½ at last year’s divisional meet, she was off stride at All-States with a top throw of 34-9¼, putting her in 11th place.
“She hasn’t had a bad meet this year,” Enos said. “She’s been great in practice. It’s about how far she throws, but it’s also about the process and how much time you put into it. She does that. She’s going to have a great finish to her year. You can just see it. She really has it going now.”
O’Sullivan is part of a strong senior class of throwers at the small school of 399 girls. Northeastern-bound classmate Caroline Afonso, of West Roxbury, is seeded second at the Division 5 Championships at 35-4½. Anna Crowley, of Milton, is seeded fifth at 33-7¼.
The trio combined to take the top three spots at the South Shore League Championships. O’Sullivan and Alfonso also went one-two at the State Relays, with Crowley fourth, as Ursuline topped second-place Innovation Academy by 17 feet for the event team title.
“They are three special girls you want to be part of your team,” said Ursuline head track and field coach Andrea Rego. O’Sullivan “came up with the decision [to do indoor track this season] on her own. I didn’t put any pressure on her. But I am thrilled to have her.”
While Rego credited Enos for developing such an accomplished throwing program at such a tiny school, she also lauded the way O’Sullivan has worked to make the most of her gifts.
“She definitely has the strength to do it and she takes feedback very well,” Rego said. “She is one of those athletes who gives it her all every single day, and more often than not throws really well.”
Enos said O’Sullivan has “unlimited potential” and is already looking forward to watching the heights she will reach at Bucknell while working in the circle every day with premier equipment. O’Sullivan said her goals are more short term as she goes into the biggest meets of the year as the top seed, favored to win it all.
“I’m excited,” she said. “There is a little more pressure to do well, but I definitely have it in my mind to do that. I know I haven’t gotten my farthest throw of the season yet. I am confident I can do it in the next couple of weeks.”
Scott Souza can be reached at ScottSouza@journalist.com