Leah O’Connor grew up on a dairy farm in Croswell, Michigan. She attended Michigan State University, where she was the Big Ten champion in the women’s 1,500 m, 3,000 m steeplechase (4 times), and 5,000 m (twice). She also holds the current MSU records for the distance medley relay, 1,500 m, mile, and 3,000 m steeplechase as well as the #3 NCAA Championship record for the 3,000 m steeplechase.
Leah’s parents were both runners and her dad did well in high school, but skipped competing in college, as he became a dairy farmer right after high school. He stayed active and did local races, where Leah and her brothers would compete in the mile runs. They would train for these events by running around the farm. Despite training through intense pain and competing considerably well in the trials, Leah’s road to Rio was cut short by a partial tear in her plantar fascia. She says “chocolate milk is my sweet little lifesaver” and will certainly be enjoying dairy products for the healing and building properties of its protein!
Leah teamed up with Allison Schmitt to provide 68,000 glasses of Michigan milk to Flint, MI during the water crisis in which lead was found in dangerous amounts in their water supply. This milk donation helped the people of Flint because the high calcium concentration in milk helps to decrease the absorption of lead in the body. She has also said “chocolate milk cures what ails you… even race belly.”