The Olympia boys cross country team is off to a strong start this season after placing first in the DeLand Invitational Aug. 27 and second in the West Orange Warrior Jamboree Aug. 20. Sophomore O’Neel Occenat has led the way for the Titans, placing fifth at the West Orange meet and ninth at the DeLand meet to help Olympia pile up the points necessary to succeed.
That was a nice start to the season with the team winning the DeLand Invitational. How optimistic is the team as the season shifts into gear?
As a team, we feel like we’re doing great this year. We’re off to a strong start … it’s like a family. We try to put our best out there and leave it all on the course.
How did you get into distance running?
One day I was at home, I had missed basketball tryouts, and my cousin and I were sitting around and we were like “we want to be remembered for something.” Track was the only thing left after basketball, so we were like “okay, let’s do track.” I wasn’t really a fast sprinter, so I knew I had to try out for distance and I was great at it.
What do you like about running for coach Stephanie Manny?
Coach Manny is a great coach, she coaches me really hard. … She motivates a lot. She pushes us and wants the best for us.
Your brother, Tyson Occenat, was another strong cross country runner during his time at Olympia. What role did he have in you taking up the sport?
When I was in seventh grade, he started training me a little here and there. I was planning to do football, but once I started doing cross country I fell in love with it and I thank my brother today because he really helped me with that.
What do you think about when you’re running?
Honestly, when I’m starting the race I just try to motivate myself and I try not to think about anything. Once you think about the pain, it gets to me and it slows me down. The mile or 800 meters, I think about all the people who told me I’d never make it and I just let that push me.
Are there any races you are particularly looking forward to this fall?
A big race I am looking forward to is the one at the University of Florida (the UF Mountain Dew Invitational, Sept. 24). I really love that course.
What’s a class in school you really enjoy?
I can honestly say I love my marketing class. I like how they sell — I love anything that has to do with business. I want to go into that when I get into college. … We’re selling cross country cards right now and I’m the second best seller on the team right now.
What do you like to do with your downtime?
I like to spend time traveling and hanging out with friends. I believe in having fun and doing things to the fullest and living life to the fullest.
What’s your favorite place you have been to?
I love Washington D.C., where the president lives. … I’ve seen The White House before — it’s very beautiful.
What is a place you really would like to visit?
I want to go to Hawaii. Everything about Hawaii I just love — everybody looks so relaxed, they just look like they have a good time.
If you could be any superhero, which would you be and why?
Honestly, I’d be the Flash. I love the show and I love how he just risks his life for everyone. He goes in and he does his best.