Athlete of the Issue: Obi Okoli ’20


Obi Okoli ’20

Obi Okoli ’20 runs the 110 m and 300 m hurdles for Boys Varsity Track and Field.

Obinna Okoli ’20 is a Senior and a four-year member of Boys Varsity Squash and Boys Varsity Track and Field. On the squash team, he played as the #3 seed this year; on the track team, he runs the 110 m and 300 m hurdles. His squash teammate John Nicholson ’22 said, “Obi is extremely reliable, on and off the court. In terms of his athletic ability, he had the best record on the team. Whenever he stepped on court, we could count on him to win, which is invaluable in the world of squash. Off the court, Obi was a great friend – easy to talk to, and a great listener.”


What do you love most about your sport and your teams?

Squash is a very small team; there are only about 10 people, so we have a really strong bond. We have two major tournaments, New England’s and Nationals, so we spend a lot of time together. Track, on the other hand, is huge. There are about 120 people, but it still feels like a family and is still one of the closest teams on campus. Although squash and track are two very different sports in terms of culture and size, I still believe that both teams have a strong familial bond. 


What were you looking forward to the most this track season?

For track, I was more looking forward to meeting a lot of different types of people, especially people who aren’t in my grade and people that I don’t normally spend time with. Track can really bring a lot of people together, but unfortunately the season had to be canceled, and I didn’t get to experience that. 


What advice would you give to current or future athletes?

I would say to not be confined by the sport you play. Hotchkiss has so many things to offer, and even if you are a recruit, make sure you engage yourself in other aspects of the school. Initially, I thought I had to dedicate a lot of my free time to sports and to take advantage of every opportunity sports offered, but I realized that we are all multidimensional and it’s ok to go to an affinity group meeting instead of participating in an optional practice. It’s ok to branch out and just go for it. 


Who has inspired you the most?

The Senior class during my Prep year was very inspiring. There were a lot of figures [who] inspired me but specifically Jelani Hutchins-Belgrave ’17. He was the All-School president during my Prep year and a proctor in my dorm, so I was able to spend a lot of time with him. He also did track and specifically my event, which is hurdles. At that time, I wasn’t great at hurdles, and I had never done it before, but he was very open. He helped me learn and encouraged me to keep going. 


How has Hotchkiss helped you improve as a player during your time here?

Anybody who plays sports at Hotchkiss knows that the schedule is jam-packed with games, so it has helped my time management skills and resilience. I remember last winter, when I was an Upper Mid, we were just finishing the squash season and I was finishing projects on the bus. We were playing in New England’s, so I didn’t get much sleep because we had to wake up early, play squash for about 12 hours, go back to the hotel, and sleep or do some work. Although you are playing a sport, you are also in school and school is a priority, so I had to learn how to balance a lot of things, [which] definitely built my resilience up. 


How has Hotchkiss athletics impacted you?

It gets you out of your own personal bubble. It puts you in an environment where you have to interact with different types of people that you might not interact with on a daily basis. Both squash and track helped me branch out. They also introduced me to different cultures. Sports helped me build a routine in my daily life at Hotchkiss. You can’t go about your time only going to class and then spend the rest of the day not doing much or studying alone. Sports helped me decompress and, surprisingly, helped me focus. Sports are like a reset for me. If I’m having a bad day or I didn’t do as well on an assignment as I would’ve liked to, once I get out and run or get out onto the squash court, it just gives my mind an opportunity to reset. In the general sense of Hotchkiss, if I’m experiencing any type of difficulty I can always depend on my sport to reset my mind for the day. 


Can you share a highlight or favorite memory from a past season? 

A memory that always comes back to mind is at New England’s last spring in May, when Dubem Anwunah ’20 was the New England champion for high jump last year. I just remember everyone gathering around the high jump landing pad, everyone was cheering for him with their phones out. There was just so much energy, especially because no one else had their event going on at the same time, so half the team was gathered around the landing pad.