Of all the things senior Andre Dawson of the Olentangy High School boys track and field team can do, saying no is not one of them.

Of all the things senior Andre Dawson of the Olentangy High School boys track and field team can do, saying no is not one of them.

Three years ago at the Richwood Relays at North Union, assistant Stephanie Lanthorn asked him to try the long jump.

"I remember I didn't do too hot that day, but all the coaches say they saw a lot of potential in me," Dawson said.

He still competes in the long jump, and will be in action Friday when the Braves play host to the Olentangy Invitational. Other schools expected to compete are Olentangy Liberty, Big Walnut, Delaware, Pickerington North, Watterson, Reynoldsburg, Dublin Scioto (girls) and Pickerington Central (boys).

Dawson, who has committed to play football for Ball State, won the long jump at the Dublin Coffman Classic on April 19 with a best of 21 feet, 8 inches on his final jump.

"Andre has really stepped up as a leader of this team," coach Sam Lehman said. "He's just a great athlete. He has improved in the long jump and the 100 meters every year and he's still improving this year."

"Doing so well at Dublin gave me a lot of confidence," Dawson said. "I guess I've always had the ability, but now I know I can jump that far. The Olentangy Invitational is a pretty nice event. It has a lot of tradition around it. We don't get too many Friday events, so this is a big deal. I just want to go out with a bang."

"It's going to be a tough field," Lehman said. "It's going to be hard to win it on the boys and girls sides. I think the fact we've seen a lot of these teams is going to be a real motivator. You know exactly what you're up against and you know you better step it up or be embarrassed. We know all the strengths of the Delaware County schools and competing against each other brings out the best in all the athletes."

Last year, the Liberty girls scored 155 points to finish ahead of Delaware (108), Olentangy (94.5), Westerville South (65), Watterson (62.5), Big Walnut (39) and Reynoldsburg (4). The Liberty boys were first (113) ahead of Olentangy (86), Watterson (77.25), Delaware (75), Pickerington North (57), Big Walnut (33.25) and Reynoldsburg (14.5).

"I always enjoy going to the Olentangy Invitational because I have a lot of respect for Sam," Liberty boys coach Keith Conkling said. "We've had nearly a week off. We're excited to get some of the kids out and seeing some big-time competition."

For Dawson, the meet is one last chance to compete on a Friday under the lights at home. In football last fall, he caught 20 passes for 361 yards and eight touchdowns and on defense had 46 first-hits, six assists and three interceptions. He was first-team all-OCC-Cardinal Division and second-team all-district in Division I as a defensive back.

"There's a lot of running in football and jumping in basketball and track helps out with both of those sports," Dawson said. "Playing three sports is not really a challenge. It all comes down to time management. If you fail to manage your time, it just messes up the rhythm of everything else."

"Sometimes you hear about kids who have already signed with a college just mailing in their final season," Lehman said. "But that hasn't happened with (Dawson or Kenny Anunike, who committed to play football for Duke) or even with Matt Shady (1994 graduate, ran distance for Wake Forest) or John Austin (1983 graduate, won state titles in the 100 and 200 after committing to Bowling Green). Andre has improved every year and he's still continuing to get better."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Liberty and Olentangy boys and girls track and field teams:

LIBERTY

April 22 -- Boys: Lost to Big Walnut 70-67; Girls: Defeated Big Walnut 87-50

Last Friday -- Home Freedom Relays postponed to May 8

Last Tuesday -- Competed against Dublin Scioto

Friday -- At Olentangy Invitational

Tuesday -- Home vs. Franklin Heights and Buckeye Valley

May 8 -- Home Freedom Relays

OLENTANGY

April 22 -- Boys: Def. Pickerington 75-62. Girls: Lost to Pickerington Central 80-57

Last Friday -- Freedom Relays postponed to May 8

Last Tuesday -- Competed at Mount Vernon

Friday -- Home Olentangy Invitational

Tuesday -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne

May 8 -- At Freedom Relays at Liberty