By Bill Foley
Brianna O’Mara is making the sports comeback of all comebacks.
Surrounded by her parents and her 2-year-old son Kesler, O’Mara signed an NAIA National Letter of Intent to compete in track & field at Montana Tech Monday in the Hall of Fame Room at the HPER Complex.
The 2015 Butte High graduate will begin school in the fall and start competing for the Orediggers when the indoor season begins next winter.
By the time the 6-foot-4 O’Mara competes for the Orediggers for the first time, what seems like an eternity will have gone by since she last played a sport.
“It’s been a decade,” O’Mara said. “I’m a complete freshman. Very non-traditional, you would say.”
O’Mara, who plans to graduate from Tech’s nursing program, has not attended a class since the end of her senior year at Butte High.
“I had to do my placement test the other day for math and writing,” she said. “That was a little flash for me, but I picked it up.”
At Tech, O’Mara plans to focus on the weights, throwing the shot put, discus and hammer.
“I might learn the (javelin) if I can,” O’Mara said. “But a lot it is going to have to do with, ‘Is my body going to keep up with me” I’m no spring chicken.”
O’Mara entered Butte High with the makings of being a 12-time letter winner, competing in track, volleyball and basketball. A pair of torn ACLs, however, turned her career into a story of what might have been.
As a freshman at Butte High, O’Mara threw the shot put a career-best 35 feet, 9 ½ inches. She qualified for the Class AA State meet in Butte and placed ninth with a mark of 34-5 ¾.
The next year, O’Mara battled back from her first ACL tear to compete again. She went to state and launched the shot put 32-9. She did not place, but she made it back.
Another ACL tear during her junior season ended her career. Until now.
Since graduation, O’Mara has stayed close to sports. While shooting for Pro Hockey News in 2016, O’Mara took pictures of the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks.
She has taken pictures of Butte High and Montana Tech games since she moved back to Butte late in 2019.
“I’m 25, but I’ve done more in my life than a lot of people who are 65,” she said.
Taking pictures is something O’Mara said she does to give back to the community she loves.
“It’s a passion of mine,” she said. “I like to put pictures out there for parents who can’t make it to the game.”
It was on the sidelines of Tech football games where she started talking about coming out of retirement to compete for the Orediggers. At first, O’Mara thought Matt Stepan, Tech’s director of athletics, was joking. Then, she realized the school started a track & field program.
That talk progressed from there until Monday, when O’Mara sat between her parents, Tammy and Joe, to end her break from competing in sports by signing the NAIA Letter of Intent.
O’Mara said she is already strong enough to compete for Tech.
“I’m 6-foot-4 and like a truck,” she said.
Now, she will begin working on getting even stronger as she gets ready to compete for the Orediggers during the 2022-23 school year.
“I am a lot stronger than in high school,” O’Mara said. “A year from now, who knows what I can be.”