Where are they now? Keith O'Neal
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Where are they now? Keith O'Neal

As a member of the Lipscomb University cross country team Keith O'Neal was accustomed to running fast. However, the month of July has moved extremely fast for him and his family. After 10 years in his hometown of Reynoldsburg, Ohio O'Neal has returned to the Lipscomb campus. He began a new job July 1. He has found a place to live, but is waiting for an office to be completed for him. He slowed down enough this week to spend some time talking with lipscombsports.com.

What sport did you play at Lipscomb? What years? Who were your coaches?

"I ran cross country from 1999-to-2002. I started with Lynn Griffith as my head coach for two years and Clay Nicks for my last two years."

How did you decide to attend Lipscomb?

"Both of my parents (Ben and Jane O'Neal) went to Lipscomb. I originally came here on a music scholarship. I played the tuba and trombone in musical programs on campus. I came here from Reynoldsburg, Ohio which is just east of Columbus."

What is your fondest athletic memory at Lipscomb?

"We switched over to NCAA Division I when I was here and we started going to some big time meets like the Auburn Invitational that we had never been too before. Going from the NAIA to running in huge meets was quite a different and quite an experience.

"It was the same distance, but our times were expected to be faster. We started running more miles in workouts trying to gear up for it."

Who had the biggest influence on you during your athletic career at Lipscomb? How?

"Clay Nicks and Earl Lavender.

"I remember my senior year in cross country I had gotten married the January. I was working two jobs during the summer. One of them was the Donut Den. The other was Brentwood Interiors. I hadn't trained as well as I needed to do.

"In my first race I did an awful job. It was my worst race in four years. I remember taking my jersey off and handing it to coach Nicks. I told him I was done…that I couldn't do anything for him that year. He handed the jersey back and said, `you are not going to quit that easy'. He encouraged me to stay. It ended up being my best season ever.

"I can't remember exactly everything he said. But he told me that he needed my leadership because we had a lot of young runners. Everyone on the team called me `Pops' because I was the only one that was married. And by the time the cross country season came around my wife was pregnant with our first child.

"Earl Lavender is my uncle. He has had a huge influence on me that started even before I came here to school. It's hard to know where to start. He has always been a great example. I saw the Christian example…how he had the faith to do things like being a missionary.

"It was great to hear from students how much they enjoyed his classes. I wanted to have that same type of impact when I was a public school teacher. I wanted my students to learn, but I wanted them to enjoy the class and walk away wanting more. Earl has always had a reputation for that. His students leave his classes wanting more. I think that is a good quality."

What is your fondest non-athletic memory from your time at Lipscomb?

"I met my wife, Tara (Stanley) O'Neal at a Lipscomb basketball game at the high school gym. That was the year they were playing at the high school because they were building Allen Arena. That was in the fall of 2001. She was sitting behind me because she knew another guy that I was friends with. We were yelling and making fools of ourselves. I guess I caught her eye.

"Also having Dr. Dennis Lloyd announced the names at graduation. He had retired from doing that, but we talked him into doing it again in December of 2002. I kept kidding him that I wanted to hear him call my name."

What is the most valuable thing you gained or learned from your time at Lipscomb?        

"At Lipscomb you see how Christ can be involved in all parts of academia. I was a public school teacher for the last 10 years. As a public school teacher I couldn't talk about Christ in the classroom, but I exuded a Christ-likeness in how I acted. And my actions with the parents and kids opened up a lot of doors and led to conversations about different things. There is something different about professors that have that attitude."

Who was your favorite professor? Why?

"My major here was history-education. I enjoyed my professors in general.

"I always enjoyed Dr. Robert Hooper's classes. I had him for four or five classes. He took a real interest in his students. I remember going to his house for breakfast from time-to-time.

"I also really enjoyed Dr. Lloyd.

"Dr. Gerald Moore in the music department was always fun to work with. He was soft-spoken. He had a big teddy bear, grandpa-like demeanor.

"Dr Earl Lavender got his points across in Bible class but we had fun as students."

Where do you live now?

"We moved to Nashville last Sunday."

Who is your employer? What is your occupation? What does your position entail?

"I started July1 as the Online Instructional Designer for Lipscomb's Center for Teaching and Learning. I will be working with the faculty to bolster the on-line courses, showing them how to improve teaching classes on line and supporting them as they do that. For the past 10 years I taught Technology Integration for the Reynoldsburg City Schools in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.

"I also coached cross country and track. I coached high school cross country and track my first two years and then moved to the junior high for several years.

Tell us about your family.

"My wife's name is Tara. We have three children. Amelia is 10 and going into the fifth grade. Grant is 8 and going into the third grade. Our youngest is Ethan and he is 4 years old."

My email is keith.o'neal@lipscomb.edu.