Q&A: Kalaheo cross country burner Colby Otero

Kalaheo's Colby Otero is the Gatorade Hawaii boys cross country runner of the year. Marie Hobro / Special to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Colby Otero is the OIA Eastern Division cross country champion and there may very well be more accolades in store.

The Kalaheo senior’s interest in multiple sports might be part of the reason why Otero embraces new ideas. He drinks protein shakes regularly.

“After a workout, I’m not going to eat a bag of gummy bears. I get a lot of carbs, but I’m the only distance runner who drinks protein shakes,” he said. “It really helps with muscle recovery. If I don’t drink the protein shakes, I’ll be sore for a little longer and it’s harder to recover.”

The biggest sacrifice for a Kalaheo harrier is personal time, even if the Mustangs don’t view that way. The night before meets, they get together for carbo-loading spaghetti dinners.

“I’ll definitely eat more than one plate,” Otero said. “We do it more for a team bonding.”

The sense of ohana carries over from families to the program and vice-versa.

“My parents weren’t really runners in high school, but now they’ve gotten into distance running. I became a runner because of them,” Otero said.

While mom (Judy) sticks to running, dad likes triathlons. So does the water baby, Colby.
Otero’s last name translates to hillside in Spanish, he said. The ultimate bucket list combo might look like this one day: trek to the family hometown in Spain, jump into a local triathlon while renting out a Tesla car.

“Tesla,” Otero said, “was definitely an outside thinker.”

Otero was featured in Tuesday’s prep feature in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, which you can read here.

Colby Otero
Kalaheo cross country, track and field

Q & A • Favorites

HPW: Kalaheo has built quite a tradition in cross country

CO: I wouldn’t say it’s tradition, but we like to be good role models for the younger runners on the team.

HPW: There’s a unique spirit in the program.

CO: I like to think it’s a pretty universal thing. The way you push yourself, it’s very different from any other sport. Since we’re kind of a smaller public school, it’s multiplied by that factor. We’re definitely willing to push ourselves that extra mile.

HPW: How has 2017 gone for you? You won OIA East divisionals at CORP on Saturday.

CO: It was a little cooler than usual. It wasn’t my best, but it was pretty good. Competition in the East is strong this year. It’ll be good to see how we interact with the West. I think the East is a little bit faster.

HPW: You also won the Kaiser Invitational. There are flat courses and somewhat hilly courses. Which do you prefer?

CO: I definitely prefer the hills. That’s just the way I run. I don’t dislike the flat courses, I guess.

HPW: It’s almost two weeks until the OIA championships. Then the state championships aren’t until Oct. 28 on Kauai.

CO: There’s a lot of time in between. We have such a close field even with the ILH, so it’s so hard to say. Especially in distance running, anything can happen.

HPW: Avery Torres graduated, and now you’re one of the senior leaders.

CO: We have a pretty mature team, but it’s definitely a lot younger. A lot of them look up to me simply because I’m older and hopefully I give them a reason to. We try to teach them how to compete, how to compete the right way.

Athlete: Mo Farah.
> He’s the four-time Olympic champ in 5K, 10K in 2012. In ’16, he won it again. That’s definitely very unheard of. It’s a week apart, but still not a lot of time to recover. I know he has running partners, different runners. The way he carries himself, he has a lot of confidence going into the race. He keeps a lot of his training secret, but I read online that he eats Frosted Flakes every day,

Does this mean Mo Farah has influenced you to eat cereal daily?

> I wouldn’t say that, but I’d say his racing strategies have influenced me. He’s a kicker, but he can still keep very fast paces. I think I’ve worked to be as versatile as him.

Team: Team USA track and field, swimming, all that stuff.
> Primarily track and field, of course.

Food (at home): Spaghetti.
> My mom makes it. Typically, it’s homemade. There’s always hamburger in it, but sometimes there’s meatballs. She’s just good at making it. I’ve tried to make meatballs, it’s not as good.

Food (eating out): Poke.
> I go to Tamura’s (in Kailua) a lot. I consider that eating out. Lot of times, I get the spicy ahi. You can never go wrong with that.

Hobby: Going to the beach.
> For sure, any beach near my house or Rocky Point on the North Shore, or Makapuu. I like Makapuu over any of them.

Movie: Lilo & Stitch
> It’s comedy, funny and teaches the young kids some life lessons. I guess in cross country I could relate to the mom, her name is Nani, watching over the team.

TV show: Family Guy
> I definitely need my Family Guy to wind down after a long day. There’s a lot of seasons and I’m still catching up.

Music artist: Michael Jackson
> It’s either Michael Jackson or J Cole, or Kendrick Lamar. Michael Jackson is just a different sound, a different quality of music.

Teacher: Ms. Koopman and Ms. Kalaukoa, both at Kalaheo High School.
> Ms. Kalaukoa is my AP Psychology teacher. She’s real cool. She knows how to make a hard class pretty interesting. Ms. Koopman definitely helps me keep track in school. She’s my human physiology teacher. A lot of times I’ll visit her room and she’ll check up on me. She has a genuine concern and that’s nice.

GPA: 3.15
> My parents, bad grades leads to bad social life, can’t do much. I’m not going to choose running over good grades. Running doesn’t last forever.
> I’m really looking into Seattle Pacific or St. Martin’s. A lot of our family are in Washington. I’m looking at biology right now. I think it’s the easiest to apply. You have to memorize some stuff, but it’s not like history or writing. It’s not about a certain technique.

Class: Wood shop.
> It’s a place to be creative and unwind, kind of a chill class.

Motto/scripture: “You don’t save energy, you find it.” —Brenda Martinez.
> She’s a sponsored New Balance runner and an Olympian.

What your mom (Judy Otero) says that you can’t forget: “Your lunch is in the fridge.”
> Usually just leftovers. They’re good.

What your dad (Andrew Otero) says that you can’t forget: “Don’t squander your time.”
> Now I’m in senior year, I definitely understand what he meant, why he stressed it probably twice a day.

What your coaches say that you can’t forget:
Coach Stan Roth: “Run your own race.”
Coach Peter Jay: “Way to represent.”

What stands out about the 2016 season for you: Starting to truly push my limit.
> “I guess I’m starting to take it more seriously, I guess, trying to see what I can do instead of saying, I can do this and I can’t do that.”
> “I trained a little more over the summer, some cross-training. I guess I saw more potential and I set my mind that I want to push myself.”
> Leading up to the season, you get that champions are made in the offseason, but you don’t want to destroy yourself.
> I log my own mileage. I try increase that and get that up pretty high during the season and in the offseason.
> This week is kind of a harder week. We’re not going in the weight room and destroy ourselves. Don’t want to risk injury, but we’ll definitely go hard this week and taper back next week. It’s definitely less intense on Tuesdays, not hammering out every day. Taking at least one full rest day a week, definitely Sundays. No actual exercise on Sundays. People could argue that’s not the best way, but we’re still growing as high schoolers, I think it’s absolutely necessary.

What stands out about this season? The super positive team atmosphere.
> “It’s completely changed since last year, last year wasn’t bad, there’s a lot more friendliness on the team.”

How does running affect your daily life?
> It really affects my diet, and my planning. I wouldn’t say it’s super extreme, but it’s kind of like making sure that I eat enough now at this point. Making sure I’m getting foods that are substantial. After a workout, I’m not going to eat a bag of gummy bears. I get a lot of carbs, but one thing I found is I’m the only distance runner who drinks protein shakes. It really helps with muscle recovery. I haven’t really met that many people that do that. If I don’t drink the protein shakes, I’ll be sore for a little longer and it’s harder to recover. Sometimes it’s just easier to drink a shake than eat a steak or eat double the amount of chicken. I use a basic GNC whey protein. Sometimes I don’t even have to use a full scoop after practice. (One jug) lasts a few months.

What middle and elementary schools did yo attend? Kinder Elementary (Okinawa) and Broad Creek Middle (North Carolina).
> My dad is a Marine, so we moved around. It’s 100 degrees in Okinawa. The beaches weren’t surfing beaches, but good diving and snorkeling. North Carolina is kind of where I ran competitive track in middle school. It’s definitely different. I was actually starting to compete with kids kind of my own age. That was a new experience there. My parents weren’t really runners in high school, but now they’ve gotten into distance running. I became a runner because of them. They made my (older) brother Alex into a runner.

What youth clubs did you play or run for?
Kubasaki High School and PNY (Pensacola, Fla.), ODST (Okinawa) swimming.
> I still swim in the offseason, not as serious as running. I kind of miss it.
> I’ve done some triathlons before. I really like doing triathlons. There’s so many different ways to push it. My dad also triathlons. He actually did one of the Ironmans.

What do you like to do that would surprise most people? I like to cook… and love to eat.
1. Pasta. Any kind, really. I take after my mom on this one. We do it more for a team bonding. I’ll definitely eat more than one plate. whoever is hosting the carbo-load.
2. I’m good at making breakfast foods, all of the above. Pancakes, waffles, eggs, bacon.

What is your ultimate dream/destination bucket list?
> To own a Tesla car. I’ve walked into the store a couple of times, actually. I end up talking to the people, learn the specs and what makes it special. It’s electric and still reach top speeds and still look semi-decent.
> Nikola Tesla was an inventor. He was definitely was an outside thinker.

Did Thomas Edison really steal his ideas and outshine him?
> I think because we know Tesla means he didn’t get pushed out of the way.

What is the history and background of your name?
Otero is of Spanish origin. Otero means from the highlands or hills.

Any shout-outs? Shout out to the lacrosse coach that cut me from the team freshman year, which led me to doing track.
> I didn’t like lacrosse, actually. I did try out over track. I had a broken ankle in the fall of my freshman year. I broke it at a wrestling camp in the summer. I started wrestling in eighth grade in North Carolina. The camp was there at the high school.

By winter, my ankle still wasn’t 100 percent. I was like, I jumped right back into it. I was really passionate about that sport for awhile, so I wrestled as a freshman.
Then we moved to Hawaii. Sophomore year I went out at Kalaheo because my brother made me do it. He was a big cross country runner. I guess I really liked it, surprisingly. I was pretty good at it from the start. I definitely made a huge leap, freshman year of track, I had major shin splints.

Being injured helped me recover and get stronger. Sophomore year, winter, I wrestled. That was the last of it. I really liked the coach, but it was time to start focusing on running.


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