Junior Olivia Chilelli finished 17th of 81 runners at subsections on Nov. 9. (Photo retrieved from CavNet)

Junior cross country team captain strives to improve after record-breaking season

“When I was in kindergarten, I wished to be as fast as the older kids,” junior Olivia Chilelli said. “Now I am.”

As the varsity cross country captain, Chilelli broke the SCDS record for the girls 5,000 meters with a time of 22 minutes, 13.97 seconds on Sept. 28. 

She placed sixth overall in the Sacramento Metropolitan Athletic League and was named the girls’ Most Valuable Runner for SCDS.

Chilelli said she’s been interested in running since elementary school, but once she started high school, she “was recruited.”

“In my freshman year at my previous school (Highlands High School), I was running the mile in P.E., and my teacher saw me,” she said. “He recruited me to run on the cross-country team soon after that. I was a bit hesitant at first, but after my first race, I fell in love with the sport.” 

Chilelli said cross country brings out her athletic side.

“The sport means a lot to me,” she said. “I haven’t really connected with any other sports besides cross country.” 

Chilelli (5-foot-2) said she achieved her greatest accomplishments this year, including breaking the school’s 5K record. She also made it to the Sac-Joaquin Section championships, which Chilelli said was “very exciting.” She finished 31st of 67 girls in the 5,000 meters in Division V.

“Since starting cross country, I have been able to watch myself improve and make lots of friends along the way,” she said. 

Chilelli has more goals.

“My current 5K record is 22 minutes, 8 seconds,” she said. “I want to break the 20-minute mark, which will be difficult, but I know I can do it.”

“I want to break the 20-minute mark, which will be difficult, but I know I can do it.”

—Olivia Chilelli

Chilelli said she takes inspiration from Allyson Felix, a runner who has won six Olympic gold medals (one individual and five relay) and recently broke the world record with her 12th and 13th gold medals in the World Track and Field Championships only 10 months after giving birth.

“(She) blew my mind,” Chilelli said. “Breaking records is hard enough, but to do it 10 months after giving birth? That’s insane! After that, I always thought about her resilience and determination during my practices and races.”

Coach Joe Hartman said he’s impressed by Chilelli’s leadership.

“She’s always supporting everyone,” he said. “Whether it be at races or practices, our team or the opponents, she understands that it’s always important to cheer everyone on.” 

Hartman added that Chilelli is very dedicated and determined.

“In our practices and races, she’s always trying hard,” Hartman said. “She’s so dedicated to the sport and the team.”

Chilelli could prepare for next season by improving her stamina, according to Hartman.

“She could definitely reach sub-20 minutes,” he said. “If she takes time this summer to run, she’ll start off strong and ready for next season.”

Freshman cross-country runner Eric Lechpammer said he’s impressed by Chilelli’s effort.

“She is always giving 110%,” he said. “She’s constantly improving and earning better times. She is a great person to have as a captain. I know that when I say this, I am speaking for the whole team. Her enthusiasm and perseverance have passed on to me and the rest of the team as well.”

—By Miles Morrow

Originally published in the Dec. 17 edition of the Octagon.