NEW BRITAIN - As the runners lined up for the 2000-meter steeplechase and took their places at the starting line, the only set of consecutive numbers - 384, 385 and 386 - stood out among the group.
Those belonged to the Oneal triplets - Austin, Ben and Jacob. Jumbled up among the other 12 racers for the event, they got into position, waited for the gun to sound and were off.
Now two years removed from their first Nutmeg Games back in 2015, little has changed for the trio. Competitors in the distances races still struggle to compete against the three, whether during the season at Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy or at Saturday’s Nutmeg Games track and field event at Veterans Stadium.
“We each specialize in basically one event,” Jacob said. “Austin will take the 2 mile, but he’s switching to the 400 this year. I usually the mile or the 800 and Ben will take either the 800 or 2 mile. Usually in those events that we specialize in, whatever one it is, one of us usually takes it.”
The New Britain natives are extremely competitive when they step onto the track. Finishing near the top of an event is what the three expect out of themselves and one another. But where winning against each other used to be the top priority, that focus has now shifted to pushing one another to get the best times they can.
“As far as our training goes, it depends on what we’re doing,” Austin said. “Sometimes we’ll be together and sometimes we’ll be separate, doing our own thing. As for that, we all try to keep it very competitive and do better than each other, but we know it’s not very important. There’s a point where we know not to push ourselves that hard. Same thing goes for the races. We don’t want to hurt each other or knock each other out of the race by pushing it too hard. We know when to calm it down a little bit.”
That’s part of the reason the Oneals enjoy participating at the Nutmeg Games. It offers them a chance to compete to see where they time as well as offering something fun to do.
On Saturday, apart from the steeplechase, Austin raced in the 400-meter dash, while Jacob competed in the 1-mile run. Ben, meanwhile, is training to run in even longer events.
“The last two or three years, I’ve running the 800,” Ben said “But now this year I’ve been transitioning to longer events such as the 2-mile, 5K for cross country. Next summer I want to get into a half marathon.”
With two more years of high school still ahead, the brothers have their sights set on larger goals moving forward. Each wants to place high at States and “make a name for” himself with the ultimate goal of running in college, whether it be at a Division-I, II, or III program.
“It’s the want to win, our shear competiveness and our heart that gives us that extra push to go that mile and finish strong,” Austin said. “It’s just something we’ve had our entire lives.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach