Charisma, hard work and God-given talent allowed one Fruitport junior to rise to the top of three varsity teams over the past year. Cam Oleen blew away all three of his coaches on the cross country, basketball and track teams with his natural athleticism and racked up a laundry list of championships over the course of an incredible track season.
A crack at cross country
Persevering through an injury-riddled fall, Oleen chased the quick footfalls of senior stars Aaron Simot and Mitch Johnson on the Fruitport cross country team, building his mileage and training as the year progressed.
In his first year out for the sport, he finished the season as the team’s No. 3 runner and captured fifth place in the O-K Black Conference with a final time of 16 minutes 41 seconds, earning him All-Conference honors.
“He is extremely talented, a great kid, has a great personality and a hard work ethic, but cross isn’t his strong suit,” Fruitport head cross country coach Randy Johnson said.
“Last year, he had a lot of injuries and was just running off his talent. He could be one of the top runners around if he stays healthy.”
The Trojans, led by their senior superstars and Oleen close behind, placed five runners in the top 10 finishers at the final O-K Black Jamboree, earning them the title in their first year in the league. Now, it is time for Oleen to lead the charge.
“Aaron (Simot) and Mitch (Johnson) were instrumental in helping (Oleen) get up there, I am hoping that Cam and fellow senior Brenden Deneen will be able to motivate the guys in the same way this year.”
A successful first outing on the cross country team gave way to a turbulent basketball season. The Trojans found themselves in a power vacuum, returning just two varsity players from the 2015-16 team, neither of which were seniors.
Oleen was one of those returners after making the varsity team in his sophomore season. The year was far from pretty, as the Trojans failed to secure a single win.
The experience would break the spirit of many young athletes, but the Fruitport team drew closer together. Not a single player quit during the defeated season, embodying the true meaning of sticking with your teammates.
His time on the hardwood was not wasted; Oleen continued to use his speed and athleticism to his advantage, running circles around more talented opponents.
“He is a (Russell) Westbrook-like talent,” Fruitport basketball coach Adam Anspach said at the beginning of their season. “His athleticism is crazy, he just never stops.”
At the conclusion of the season, coach Anspach’s tune was the same.
“If you came to watch practice, you would have no idea we didn’t get a win,” he said. “Everyone worked hard and kept their attitude in check. You couldn’t have gone through this with a better group of guys.”
The lessons learned on the hardwood would pay off for Oleen in his coming track season, where he would demand the respect and attention of the running community.
After not running his freshman year, the young star earned a spot on an All-Star 3,200-meter relay team as a sophomore. The foursome went on to win a state title and claim a Fruitport school record at the 2016 state meet.
Oleen found himself as the sole returner from the relay for his junior season. After a long basketball season, he was doubly determined to recapture that state title feeling, and whatever other titles he had to along the way.
“His sophomore year when he was on that state champ relay, we were just beginning, and I think we still are, to learn how great this young man can be,” Fruitport head track coach Chad Brandow said.
“He just doesn’t tire out. God gifted him with some great tools and he is learning how to use them.”
Those tools crafted a special season this spring, as Oleen ran all the way to the championship heat of the 400-meter dash at the Division 2 state finals.
“He has a strong will, when he sets his mind to something, he does it,” Brandow said. “He told me, ‘Coach, I want to be state champ in the 400.’ I told him I would train him for it and see what we can do.”
Coming into the final turn at the state championship, it looked like Oleen’s legs, along with his dream, had died, but his will to win hadn’t.
Trailing multiple runners, including our No. 3 male athlete of the year, Spring Lake’s Isaiah Peirce, Oleen turned on the afterburners. He described the race like this:
“I know I got out in the first 200 meters,” Oleen said. “I knew Isaiah Pierce would be out fast, he is really quick in the 200. He passed me, but I wasn’t too worried, because I know he likes to go out fast. The last 100 meters, I couldn’t feel my legs and ran with my heart the whole way.
“I thought, ‘If you are going to win this race, you have to dive across this line.’ He was leaning and I was leaning, I guess I leaned better and got the win.”
His diving win capped off a golden year in his signature event. The young runner lost just two 400-meter races over the course of the season, finishing second in the first meet of the year, the GVSU Laker Challenge, and a mid-season O-K Black invitational.
Oleen captured the conference and regional titles in the event on his way to the state title, where he clocked a blistering 49.21, a personal record.
The 400 wasn’t enough for the hungry competitor. Over the course of the season Oleen tried his luck at a devastating double, taking just one event off before the grueling 800-meter run.
The half-mile race proved right up Oleen’s alley. He took the O-K Black championship with his first sub-2:00 performance of the year before faltering slightly at the regional meet, finishing third and one spot away from a lane at the state finals.
He came back at the West Michigan All-Star meet to win the event, setting a new personal record at 1:58.76.
Oleen’s final two titles came with some help from his teammates and friends. Aaron Simot, Mitchell Johnson and Brendan Deneen joined Oleen in the two-mile relay to win the O-K Black and regional championship in the event. They finished their year with a seventh-place effort at the state championships, clocking in at 8:00.01
With the 400 being his last race of the state meet, it capped off a stellar arrival season on the track, making him one of the more successful athletes in Fruitport school history.
“As a junior, he has a state title and school record in two events,” Brandow said. “That is remarkable, and I bet he will have three or four when he is all done.
“He is a wonderful kid, a very respectful hard worker. Aaron was the leader last year, now it is Cameron Oleen’s job; he has to figure it out. I think he will.
“Be around this spring, it is going to be something to watch.”