Of a whopping 926 votes cast for The Times Athlete of the Week, Newark girls basketball’s Gwyneth O’Connell brought in 483 of them, topping runner-up Shea Reisel (Somonauk wrestling) as well as Jack Starkey (Streator boys basketball) and Evan Reilly (Sandwich wrestling).
In a week with plenty of thrilling moments, the sophomore O’Connell’s was right up there, draining a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the buzzer Thursday to lift the Norsemen to a come-from-behind, 48-47 victory over host Indian Creek.
Next week’s ballot will be online Sunday, with voting going through midday Wednesday.
Here is a Q&A with this week’s winner:
What went through your mind as you received the pass, took the shot and watched it go through the net to beat Indian Creek?
When I received the pass, all I could think was to shoot it and make sure my fingertips followed through all the way. Once I took the shot, I knew that it was going in. As I watched my shot go through the hoop, I just thought to get back on defense.
Is that your favorite on-court memory or do you have another?
This is definitely my favorite on-court memory.
Do you have any nicknames?
Most people call me Gwen.
Who have been the most influential coaches in your life, basketball or otherwise?
I have been blessed to have many influential coaches in my life, though three coaches have been the most influential. Coach Morgan Newport, my travel softball coach, has always pushed me and strengthened my mental attitude. She has also given me the footwork that I have been able to transfer into my basketball game. Coach Doc Schutt, my strength trainer and track coach, has always believed in me and pushed me to be a better athlete. He also always gives me advice and perspective. Saving the best for last, the G.O.A.T., Kyle Anderson, my ultimate mentor, has taught me so much about skill, game play, mental toughness and attitude. He is always, always helping me push myself to the next level. I will be forever grateful for him and so very blessed to know him. I hope to continue learning from his expertise.
How would you describe yourself as a basketball player?
I would describe myself as a hard-working, good-shooting, 110% effort-giving basketball player.
What’s your favorite subject in school?
Animal science or anything else science related.
Who are your favorite professional sports teams?
My No. 1 sports team would’ve been the Cubs, but now that they traded everyone, not so much. I love the Bulls. Lastly, UConn (I know they aren’t a professional sports team, but I still love watching them).
What is your favorite thing about being a Newark Norseman?
The constant support from all my teachers and the staff at the high school. Also, getting to be teammates with the Rebounding Queen Kellie Snyder and the Outstanding Kjersten Friestad.
Do you have any plans to play sports after high school?
My ultimate dream would be to play under “the warrior” Lindsey Whalen at the University of Minnesota. My hope is to have the opportunity to play college basketball.