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Olive Kilifi's HS Past and Eagle Future

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Olive Kilifi's HS Past and Eagle Future

We call him Ollie because people get weird when you write Olive, but either way, Ollie, or Olive (pronounced o-LEE-veh) Kilifi is a key component of the USA Men's National Team and likely to see some action in the upcoming ARC. The Seattle Saracens prop forward got his start playing for the old West Seattle Stormers, which became the OPSB U19 team and then the Seattle Vikings as a high-schooler.

"I started before high school but started taking it seriously in high school," Kilifi told Goff Rugby Report. "I played for the Loggers [select side team] and that got me more excited about it, but I then had to go on Mission so I was away for a while."

A member of the Mormon Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - or LDS), Kilifi went on LDS Mission to Alberta in Canada for two years.

"I saw a lot of rugby up there, and saw USA play Canada, but you can't really play, so I saw a lot, but that was it," said Kilifi, who credited former USA 7s player Finau Puloka with developing him as a youngster. "When I was younger rugby was just like a fun thing, and he kind of sat me down and talked to me and told me 'this is what you can be if you focus.' He instilled in me the idea of working hard for what I want."

A big body, Kilifi is a prop now, but started as a center in high school, "but I was a lot smaller then!"

He moved to flanker and then to his natural position, prop, which, he said, "I love."

But as he began to produce at the club level, Kilifi ran into some issues with how he looked. He's not built like a carved piece of granite - he's more of a boulder, round in the middle. But every coach he has played for has sung his praises as a scrummager and a powerful front-rower.

"I did have to overcome that," he said. "I was predominantly a loosehead, and they're supposed to be more slender. It was different. My shoulders were a bit too broad for loosehead, so now I am training as a tighthead and get that position locked down more. I did fight it at the beginning."

Now Kilifi is part of an established USA front row group that includes three more Washington-produced props in Nick Wallace, Shawn Pittman (back from concussion issues), and Titi Lamositele, all of them from Chuckanut. Eric Fry, formerly of Jesuit of Sacramento and Cal, is also in that group. They all know that making the jump from club or college to international rugby isn't easy.

"My first game was against Georgia, and I was nervous, like anyone would be," said Kilifi. "It's definitely a bigger step. International rugby is faster, and in the scrums it's more technical. At the club level the bigger pack usually wins. But internationally we go against packs that are smaller than us and they beat us sometimes and a lot of it is technique. So I have been focusing more on technique than just my strength since then."

And that's a constant battle in domestic rugby.

"We do get away with it [being bigger] a lot," Kilifi explained. "You win in the scrum, but you have to know in your mind that it's not up to the level. Coaches will tell you that at the international level it's not good enough. So for us, we just try to get as many reps as possible. For international games it's hard because you don't have a lot of time. When we do get together we try to continue to work together more and perfect our technique."

Next up for Kilifi and the USA program will be the Americas Rugby Championship in Langford, BC. Kilifi, being a US-based player, is expected to be a part of that squad, as is Wallace (who plays in Canada), and Pittman (who is now fit to play and is Kilifi's teammate with the Seattle Saracens).