SIOUX CITY | Two former Sioux City high school athletes with several things in common are the latest individuals selected to the Sioux City Relays Hall of Fame.
With the 49th running of Western Iowa’s premier track and field carnival still scheduled for this weekend at Elwood Olsen Stadium, Daniel P. O’Brien and Tunisia Evans-Billings will be added to the hall of fame during ceremonies scheduled for 12:10 p.m.
O’Brien is a 1975 graduate of Bishop Heelan and Evans-Billings matriculated from North High in 1990.
Both honorees followed their prep careers with outstanding success at the University of South Dakota, where both achieved NCAA Division II All-America laurels.
Moreover, O’Brien was named to the Coyotes’ athletic hall of fame in 2003 and Evans-Billings was added to the same shrine in 2007.
Likewise, both proceeded from USD to become successful high school track and field coaches, primarily in Sioux City.
O’Brien, now in his 32nd year of coaching, has spent the last 22 years at Heelan, where he is currently the head coach of the Crusaders’ boys and girls cross country teams. Six of his girls teams have won district titles and the boys program, which he added to his workload in more recent years, has won district titles the last two seasons.
O’Brien also had seven district titles in girls track while serving as the head coach in that sport. And, previous to serving his alma mater, he had state championship and state runner-up girls cross country teams at Le Mars Gehlen Catholic in 1986 and 1988, respectively.
Still listed on the Heelan boys track record board as a member of the school’s fastest 4x800 relay, O’Brien anchored teammates Tom Pylelo, Mark Morin and Mike Rickord to a 7:54.2 clocking in 1975.
At South Dakota, he became an All-American in the 5,000 meters in 1979 and captured five individual titles in the North Central Conference. He was the NCC cross country champ in 1978, the conference 5,000 winner in 1979, and picked up three titles in 1980 -- the indoor 800 and 1,500 along with the outdoor 10,000.
The former Tunisia Evans, who also played basketball and volleyball, was The Journal’s 1990 Metro Female Athlete of the Year after a senior track season in which she ran second in the Drake Relays 100 meters. The North speedster battled through a hamstring injury for much of the season, but still managed to place third in both the 100 and 200 at the large-school (Class 3A) state meet.
At USD, Evans broke state collegiate records in the outdoor 100 (:11.92) and the indoor 55 meters (:07.08) while leading off state-record 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams.
Evans-Billings taught and coached at Dakota Valley before returning to North, where she was the head girls track coach for eight seasons. She led the Stars to three consecutive titles in the City Meet and the Missouri River Conference meet while capping off her tenure with a Class 4A district championship in 2006.
Now a teacher at West, Billings has served as the Wolverines’ head coach in volleyball and is now an assistant coach for the school’s co-ed track program, led by Eric Strim.
Evans still holds the Sioux City Relays’ Class A record in the 100 with a clocking of :12.24 from 1989, her junior year at North.