Cheylee Octavio grew up on the short side, topping out at 5 feet, 1 inch.
But she did her best to turn her lack of size into a strength on the soccer field.
“I knew I had to keep up with the bigger girls,” she said. “It made me spicy. I knew I had to get on the same level.”
That Octavio got there and beyond — she’s got a scholarship waiting for her at Mount Mercy — is a product of her grit, guile and physical gifts, according to Waiakea coach Jason Nakayama.
“Cheylee is the type of player that is going to give her all,” Nakayama said. “She’s feisty. She won’t back down.
“Speed and determination are her strengths.”
Octavio may not have looked physically imposing, but the four-year starter became a force in high school, scoring 19 goals for the Warriors last season.
But her senior year was often a trying one as her mother faced federal embezzlement chargers and was ultimately sentenced to 19 months in prison.
True to her nature, Octavio did her best to turn the adversity into a positive.
“I definitely use it as a source of motivation,” she said. “I want to make my family proud.
“It helped me grow a lot.”
Largely because of the ordeal, Octavio has switched courses and plans to major in psychology.
“I was seeing a counselor and it swayed my passion to help kids,” she said.
Roughly 60 percent of her college costs will be covered at Mount Mercy, a university with approximately 1,800 students in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Octavio’s recruitment began when she posted her video and profile on the National Collegiate Scouting Association website.
She’s been playing club soccer for eight years and was an All-Big Island Interscholastic Federation outfielder in softball as a senior, graduating with a 3.2 grade point average.
She turned down two other offers, including one at Washington and Jefferson. She visited the Pennsylvania school but chose the Mustangs sight unseen after connecting on with coach Raven McMurrin.
“She has my interests at heart,” Octavio said. “We walked about soccer, but also about things on a more personal level. She liked my speed and that I’m physical.”
“I’m scared to leave, but home will always be home. I’m just really excited about the experience.”
Mount Mercy finished 3-15 last season, including 1-5 in the NAIA’s Midwest Collegiate Conference.
Nakayama calls Octavio a “natural scorer” at striker. In addition to providing a boost on offense, Octavio, a three-time captain in high school, prides herself on being a leader.
“Whether it was her touches (one the ball) or her character, I saw her grow up a lot,” Nakayama said. “I told her to be herself, try her best and everything else will fall into place.
“She’s opening doors for other to follow in her place.”