Tyler King didn't expect to find his passion when he first laced up his running shoes in middle school. It just happened.
Now a senior standout for the Olentangy Orange High School boys track and field team, King initially thought running would help him in other sports. Instead, it opened the door for him to run for the University of South Carolina.
King holds the program record in the 800 meters (1 minute, 56.48 seconds) and is looking to reach the Division I state meet for the first time in the event.
"I guess you could say I caught the runner's bug," King said. "I started out thinking that this would be a good way to condition for the other sports that I did like basketball and soccer, but as I started running and getting better at it, I really started to like it and stopped playing the other sports when I got to high school.
"I kind of got addicted to the rush you get when you race. You're like super-nervous at the line when you're out there and you get to compete against everyone one on one. It's just you versus them. I like that individual aspect, but I also like the aspect of running as part of a team. You kind of have the best of both."
King has experienced the best of both worlds for three consecutive seasons, as the Pioneers have won three league championships in a row. They finished first in the OCC-Capital Division in 2016 followed by consecutive titles in the OCC-Buckeye.
Orange ran away with the OCC-Buckeye title May 10 and 12 at home by totaling 195.5 points, easily outdistancing Westerville Central (99), Liberty (71.5), Westerville South (71), Olentangy (43) and Westerville North (43).
King won the 800 (1:57.51) and was one of numerous champions for the Pioneers. Jayden Rodgers was a double-winner, taking first in the high jump (meet- and program-record 6 feet, 6 1/4 inches) and 110 hurdles (14.42).
Jaeschel Acheampong was first in the long jump (22-5 1/2), and Andrew Schroff won the 1,600 (4:22.29).
Orange also won the 400 relay (43.56) with Brandon Ransom, Kevin Acheampong, Joel Sarpong and Max Stewart and the 800 relay (1:30.11) with Ransom, Manny Anderson, Stewart and Jaeschel Acheampong.
King anchored the first-place 3,200 relay (meet-record 7:57.34) behind Schroff, Tommy Wintering and Alex Kenish. King helped set the program record of 7:49.39 in the 3,200 relay with 2017 graduate Tommy Heiden, Schroff and Wintering while finishing seventh in last year's state meet.
"When you talk about an 800 runner, that's a combination of being a distance runner and a sprinter," coach Adam Walters said. "Tyler's incredibly fast, and he could be one of our top sprinters. But he also has the mental toughness, stamina and work ethic to bring it all together in the 800."
That mix of speed and stamina is what draws King to the 800. Just like with track being a team and an individual sport, the 800 represents the best of both worlds for King.
"I guess I have always been more of a speed guy," he said. "I like taking the aspect of speed and turning it into more of an endurance race, so that way it's not super quick like the 100 or 200, but still I get to do like an all-out sprint in the race. The 800 combines both the endurance and the speed."
King said he has been working toward being more patient so he'll have more left in the tank for the homestretch.
"In previous years, I have gone out pretty hard (to start) and try to keep going and see what I could do with my kick in the end, but that has been different this year," he said. "I would go out something crazy fast like a 54 (seconds in the first 400), but this year (Walters) has taught me to be a little more conservative. That way, in the postseason, I can go out hard but then come back and still have a kick at the end."
King has a 4.2 GPA and wants to major in biomedical engineering at South Carolina. He will compete in track, but the Gamecocks do not have men's cross country.
Before heading to college, King still has the matter of trying to reach his first state meet as an individual. That started with the district 3 meet, which began May 16, continues Thursday, May 17, and concludes Saturday, May 19 at Hilliard Darby.
The top four finishers in each event advance to regional Wednesday, May 23, and May 25 at Pickerington North. The top four in each regional event qualify for state June 1 and 2 at Ohio State.
"I need to continue to focus on the little details like recovery, stretching and icing as we approach the district and regional," King said. "That way I can be fresher and ready to go when we do have to run that fast time."
Frye leads girls track team in league meet
Grace Frye won a pair of events to lead the girls track team to a third-place finish in the OCC-Buckeye meet.
The junior won the 300 hurdles in a meet- and program-record 45.26. She also was first in the discus (126-3) and third in the shot put (37-1/4).
Brenda Agyekum won the 100 (12.33) for the Pioneers, who scored 126 points to finish behind Central (146) and Liberty (135) and ahead of Olentangy (61), North (35) and South (20).
The girls team also is competing in the district 3 meet.
Baseball team reaches district semifinal
The 23rd-seeded baseball team had won five consecutive games and was 16-11 before playing top-seeded Liberty on May 15 in a Division I district semifinal.
The winner advanced to a district final against third-seeded Grove City or 16th-seeded Marysville on Thursday, May 17, at a neutral site to be determined.
The district champion advances to a regional semifinal May 24 at Dublin Coffman.
After a first-round bye, Zach Beatty pitched six innings and Hunter Andres tossed the seventh in a 9-0, four-hit shutout of 35th-seeded Central Crossing on May 9 at home.
"My fastball and curveball were working really well," said Beatty, who struck out six and surrendered two walks and three hits. "I stayed ahead of the hitters, and if you can work ahead then it will be a fight for them to hit instead of you having to fight to throw strikes."
Connor Evans singled twice and drove in a run, and Robbie Dayhuff had a two-run single.
Doubles teams advance to district
The boys tennis team produced the top two doubles tandems in a Division I sectional tournament May 10 and 12 at Hilliard Bradley.
Top-seeded Alex Heiden and Jordan Phelps won the title by defeating third-seeded teammates David Cavote and Ben Thompson 6-0, 6-0 in the final.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to district Thursday, May 17, at Bradley and Saturday, May 19, at Upper Arlington. At district, the top four in singles and doubles advance to state May 25 and 26 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
The Pioneers' three singles players -- Cameron Glassburn, Pranav Krishnan and Zach Shaver -- all went 2-1 at sectional.
Boys lacrosse team opens regional tourney
The eighth-seeded boys lacrosse team was 9-9 before opening the Division I, Region 1 tournament May 15 at seventh-seeded Medina.
The winner plays at second-seeded Liberty or 13th-seeded Dublin Scioto in a quarterfinal Friday, May 18. Orange lost to Liberty 9-4 on April 17.
That winner advances to a regional semifinal Tuesday, May 22, at home against third-seeded Olentangy, fifth-seeded Whitehouse Anthony Wayne, ninth-seeded Perrysburg or 10th-seeded Strongsville.
The Pioneers defeated Perrysburg 15-7 on April 29, but lost to Olentangy 13-5 on April 12 and Anthony Wayne 10-3 on April 28.
The regional final is May 25.
Girls lacrosse team wins postseason opener
The fifth-seeded girls lacrosse team was 11-7 after defeating 15th-seeded Anthony Wayne 22-4 at home in the first round of the Division I, Region 1 tournament May 14.
Kailee O'Brien had five goals and Melanie Neuman scored three.
Orange plays at second-seeded Liberty in the second round Friday, May 18. The Pioneers lost to the Patriots 19-3 on April 17.
The winner advances to a regional semifinal Monday, May 21, at home against third-seeded Olentangy or fourth-seeded Medina. The Pioneers lost to the Braves 21-10 on April 12.
The regional final is May 24.
Boys volleyball team set for postseason
The boys volleyball team is seeded 14th of 20 teams in the Division I East Region tournament and has a first-round bye before facing fifth-seeded Dublin Jerome in a regional quarterfinal Saturday, May 19, at Darby.
The winner plays third-seeded Hilliard Davidson, 17th-seeded Reynoldsburg or 18th-seeded Westerville South in a regional semifinal Tuesday, May 22, at Darby.
The regional final is May 25.
The Pioneers are 11-10 overall and finished 2-8 in the OCC-Buckeye.