Running into the O’Neal Cross Country Record Books

Lulu Brase
Senior Molly Kuzma, already an Individual State Champion, races in Friday’s NCISAA State Cross Country meet - and does so as the most accomplished runner in O’Neal history. Kuzma has already stamped her mark on the O’Neal Cross Country program’s record books and leaves a legacy that will last a lifetime.

Molly Kuzma started running Cross Country and Track and Field during her 7th grade year at O’Neal. Looking back, Molly shared, “I joined the cross-country team to increase my aerobic capacity for my primary sport at the time, swimming. This proved to be a fateful decision as I quickly fell in love with the sport.” A fateful decision it was, and one that Head Cross Country Coach Heather Weeks is thankful for. “Molly has been the epitome of leadership through example. Other runners look at her success and can see that it is very much tied to her relentless pursuit of excellence and her work ethic,” shared Coach Weeks. 

It is this relentless pursuit of excellence that has allowed Kuzma to re-write the O’Neal record books throughout her running career. With a personal 5K record of 18:50, Molly is the first girls’ runner in O’Neal history to break the sub-19-minute mark. Throughout her six seasons as a member of the Cross-Country team, Kuzma has won 6 straight Conference Championships, an Individual State Runner-Up in 2019, and an Individual State Championship in 2018. This Friday, she looks to add a second Individual State Championship to the list. 

Despite her outstanding successes, coaches and teachers alike describe Molly as an unassuming leader. Athletic Director James Franklin shared, “Molly is one of the strongest athletes I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing compete. She always finds a way to perform at the highest level. She’s a humble and driven leader who has set a standard that all others at O’Neal aspire to.”

Molly’s humility and passion for running are contagious. To no surprise, when reflecting on her running career Molly was quick to share, “for the past six years, my happiest moments have stemmed from the pounding of my feet against pavement, wind in my face, winding trails, and the feeling of accomplishment that accompanies the completion of a run. Running is unlike any of the other sports in that it lacks rules. There is no equipment to master and no technique to learn. But above all else, the beauty of the sport arises from choice. Every run, I am confronted with several choices—the choice to continue, the choice of which trail to conquer next, the choice of how fast I should run, and the choice of who I should run with. On a run, an infinite amount of paths reveal themselves to me. Walls, obstacles, and pain all fade away. Speed, distance, and form become relative. And there is no set of rules to weigh me down.”

Friday might mark the final Cross-Country race in the Falcon navy and white for Molly, but her running career is far from closed. Molly plans to continue her running career at the collegiate level and is looking forward to the next step in her journey. 

But for now, there is only one thing on her mind—a final race to close her tremendous O’Neal Cross Country career.
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The O’Neal School
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Southern Pines, NC 28387

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