Before a captivated crowd of nearly 4,000 people, Killian O’Brien left it all out on the floor. O’Brien’s passion for the sport of gymnastics was on his sleeve as he tumbled end over end in the 2011 Home Show – a display that has been a fixture at Springfield College since 1909. Under the heat of the bright spotlights in Blake Arena, O’Brien knew that the emphatic applause at the end of the show meant a semester of hard work had paid off and come to a close. A successful first semester also meant it was finally time for the sophomore to head home.
Commitment to gymnastics is what uprooted O’Brien from his hometown of Fishers, Indiana. That same commitment is also what grounds his newly formed roots here at Springfield College. With his family 900 miles away, Obrien finally gets to put his tumbling on hold for winter break and make the trip back to Indiana for the holidays. While most students visit extended family every holiday season, O’Brien doesn’t have that luxury. This year however, the O’Brien’s plan to take a trip from Indiana to California to visit family that Killian hasn’t seen in over four years.
O’Brien was born in Rancho Cordova, California – twenty minutes outside of Sacramento. With the majority of his family calling California home, O’Brien’s parents moved him and his siblings to Fishers, Indiana when he was just five years old. Fishers is a suburb of Indianapolis, and O’Brien says his hometown isn’t all that different than Springfield. Fishers is where gymnastics began for O’Brien. For 12 years the gymnast channeled his efforts toward the sport he loves. This past summer, O’Brien headed south to work at LaFleur’s Gymnastics Club in Florida. After a month at LaFleur’s, the gymnast spent a month working at Flip Fest Gymnastics Camp in Tennessee where he has worked for the past five summers.
Growing up around gymnastics in Indiana led O’Brien toward a future designed around his sport. After his graduation from Fishers High School in 2010, O’Brien was faced with a college search that was geared toward gymnastics. O’Brien reached out to Springfield College and its gymnastics program and says he hasn’t looked back since.
“I chose out here because I knew Springfield had a good gymnastics program,” said O’Brien. “I love the size of the school and the camaraderie between everyone.”
The gymnastics lifestyle at Springfield is a demanding one. From the first day of the semester to the last, all SC gymnasts buckle down to work toward a common goal. Most of O’Brien’s teammates are within driving distance of their hometowns and can find time to recharge their batteries with a visit home.
O’Brien has to wait.
Thanksgiving and winter vacations are the only chances O’Brien gets to head back to Indiana. O’Brien says he has formed a family at Springfield College that he can turn to when Indiana isn’t an option.
“It is kind of tough to be so far away from my family, but I have made a close group of friends at Springfield who are always there for me,” said O’Brien.
Last year O’Brien even spent Easter with the family of one of his close friends from school.
Sean Seifert/The Student
With his plane ticket booked, O’Brien looks forward to heading home for the holidays this year. Being reunited with his siblings is always an interesting experience he says.
“We fall right back into our old habits: bickering and fighting. But at the end of the day we’ll watch a movie together or go bowling,” said O’Brien. “It’ll be nice to see the family again.”
Over Thanksgiving break this year O’Brien didn’t get the chance to see his entire family. With his older brother down in Texas for army training and his mother visiting her parents, O’Brien missed out on seeing everyone together. O’Brien’s older and younger brothers will be home in Fishers, as well as his older sister and her new baby this holiday season. With the family reunited, Uncle O’Brien and company plan to fly out to Rancho Cordova to finally visit the extended family that O’Brien hasn’t seen in years.
As exciting as O’Brien’s holiday travels are slated to be, they will be abbreviated. Springfield College gymnasts return to campus early on Jan 8th to get prepared for their first competitive meet of the spring semester against Navy. O’Brien will pack up his things and head back to the Northeast for yet another semester away from home; but he doesn’t look at it that way.
“Springfield is far away from home but it is worth the distance. It’s a good school with good people and a great gymnastics program,” said O’Brien. “I love it here and I can’t see myself being at any other school.”
The holiday break has surely taken on a special meaning for the Springfield sophomore. While the majority of SC students consider home to be around the corner, O’Brien has grown to create home where he can. In early January O’Brien will leave his home in Indiana to come back to Springfield College and the sport of gymnastics; he says that is as close to home as it gets.
Sean Seifert may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org