Eliminate the coronavirus, and Cindy Walls likely would be coaching the Bishop O’Connell High School head girls cross country team for one last season this fall.
Instead, Walls – who has moved to the Jacksonville, Fla. – area, is in the news for another reason at O’Connell. The coach recently was selected to be inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame, as just the second female coach in the organization’s history.
While overseeing the girls cross country program from 2005 to 2019 as head coach, Walls’ teams won eight Division I private-school state championships (including six in a row), finished second five times; the girls placed first in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference for 10 straight seasons (winning 11 titles in all and second four times); and won countless Arlington County meets. The eight state titles are the most won by any girls head cross country coach in the history of the Virginia Independent Athletic Association.
Walls also served as O’Connell’s head boys cross country coach for a period, as well as the head girls and boys track and field coach of the indoor and outdoor teams. She coached countless runners who went on to compete in college.
Individually, O’Connell runners – girls and boys – won many individual WCAC, state and county meet cross country and track and field titles.
O’Connell’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony is Nov. 6 at the school.
“There are so many wonderful memories at O’Connell,” Walls said. O’Connell cross country was a huge part of my life. I really wanted to coach one more year.”
Walls had initially planned to coach her final season this fall. Those plans changed because of COVID, with Walls and her husband, John, speeding up plans to move to Florida, where they live now in sight of the Atlantic Ocean. John Walls was O’Connell’s longtime football and basketball announcer.
Cindy Walls initially got involved with the girls cross country program at O’Connell as an assistant coach in 2004. By the next season she was hired as head coach by former O’Connell athletic director Darrell Snyder.
“Things worked out pretty fast back then,” Walls said. “I’m proud of the success we had. We coached a lot of great runners and great kids.”
The number of girls participating in the cross country program under Walls swelled from as few as a half dozen her first season to a high of 40. Two of the runners over the years were Walls’ daughters.
Walls was recognized for her efforts over the years when she was selected overall high-school Coach of the Year by the Better Sports Club of Arlington and cross country Coach of the Year by The Washington Post.
As a runner herself, Walls has competed in 27 Boston Marathons. She plans to run in at least the next two, in October this fall and April of 2022.
Jim Connor is O’Connell’s head boys and girls cross country coach, as well as the head coach of the indoor and outdoor track and field programs.