Most college freshmen have not been featured by ESPN. Most do not have a Facebook fan page with nearly 2,000 followers. Most have not been dubbed as a future Olympian.
Most are not Octavious Freeman.
And yet, when you ask the UCF track and field sprinter what might surprise people to know about her, a huge grin breaks across her face.
“I’m normal just like everyone else,” Freeman said. “My friends went home for the break and people would say, `That Octavious Freeman girl goes to your school. What is she like?’ A lot of people think that I’m cocky, but I’m nothing like that.”
Freeman has been a part of the spotlight ever since she won the state championship in the 100 and 200 meter races her freshman year of high school. She repeated as champion every year until she graduated, earning 10 individual gold medals during her four-year career at Lake Wales Senior High School.
She was named to USA Today’s All-USA Track and Field Sprints Team, and she finished her senior season ranking first in the nation in the 100m and 200m.
“You get these kinds of kids and you expect them to be egotistical,” head coach Caryl Smith Gilbert said. “She’s really down to earth and she’s really just a good person. Of all the things that stand out the most, it’s how much she cares about other people.”
Freeman inherited her love of track from her father and coach, Stanley Smith. Her father ran track in high school and later in life, he brought Freeman and her younger brother along with him to workouts.
“Track is his love. I looked up to him so I wanted to do the same thing he did,” Freeman said.
The pair spent countless hours performing constant speed drills. Foot drills. Quickness drills. Drills to get her rhythm going. The work did not go unnoticed.
When Smith Gilbert saw Freeman compete at the Florida state championship meet her freshmen year, she knew the sprinter was something special. Freeman committed to UCF partly because Smith Gilbert reminded her so much of her father.
“I didn’t want a coach to treat me like I’m the star of the team,” Freeman said. “When she coaches, she’s just like my dad, and I need that type of person from time to time.”
The option to turn pro after high school was a possibility, but Freeman wanted to experience college and earn a degree.
“School is more important,” Freeman said. “If you run the times, you’ll be able to be pro, but when the time is right. I’m not looking at just going pro anymore. I want to win championships as a team.”
With Freeman added to an already stacked sprints unit, the Knights can become a legitimate contender for a national title.
“I have always believed that the best teams have great training partners, and the more intensity you can bring into each workout translates to competitions,” Smith Gilbert said. “Tay has helped the whole sprint group and the team turn up the volume in practice, and I am excited to see her and the team compete and display all of the hard work they have done. She is definitely here at UCF to help us make history.”