Jayden Rodgers received a simplistic tip from Olentangy Orange High School boys track and field coach Adam Walters as the senior prepared for the Division I state final in the 110-meter hurdles June 2 at Ohio State.
"Coach didn't tell me a lot. He just told me to go out there and run, and that's what I did," Rodgers said.
That straightforward bit of advice worked as Rodgers won in a program-record 13.83 seconds. He entered the final seeded second after going 14.05 in the preliminary, trailing Quentin Woodall (14.02) of Lyndhurst Brush.
Woodall ended up second in 13.94.
"The kid who was seeded first was fast, so I knew I had to go below 14 to win it," said Rodgers, who will compete in track and football at Grand Valley State in Allendale, Michigan. "My previous best was a 14.01, so this was a big drop for me."
Rodgers was runner-up last spring in the 110 hurdles (14.09) after setting a then-program record of 14.01 in his preliminary heat. He is the second champion in as many seasons for the Pioneers after 2017 graduate Hunter Moore won the 3,200 in a program-record 8:58.47.
Moore was Orange's first boys state champion.
The Pioneers also had three relays place at state as they tied for fifth (27 points) behind champion Pickerington Central (58) as 69 teams scored.
The 3,200 relay of seniors Tyler King and Tommy Wintering, junior Andrew Schroff and sophomore Alex Kenish finished third in a program-record 7:44.89.
"We lost (Moore) from last year and he was our fastest leg, so we were worried that we weren't going to compete this year," Wintering said. "Then we found Alex Kenish and he ended up running well and we have been running really strong.
"We tried our best, but in the end (Wadsworth and Brecks-ville-Broadview Heights) were too fast. We wanted to be at least top three and we got that. We were looking to get in the low 7:40s and we were there, and we also set a (program) record. We're happy about that."
The 1,600 relay of sophomore Jaeschal Acheampong, junior Christian Wright and seniors Manny Anderson and Tyler King also was third (3:19.76). Acheampong joined his senior brother Kevin Acheampong, senior Joel Sarpong and sophomore Max Stewart on the fourth-place 800 relay (1:28.22).
Last year, Kevin Acheampong and Sarpong joined Rodgers and 2017 graduate T.J. Coates on the 800 relay that was seventh in 1:29.27.
"Overall I think we did great, coming from seventh last year to fourth this time," Sarpong said. "It's a pretty big improvement so you have to happy with that."
The 800 relay was seeded sixth for the final after running 1:28.76 in the preliminary race.
"I think we did pretty well," Kevin Acheampong said. "We were able to go around quicker than I thought we would from prelims and finals. I'm impressed with our times."
Also, the 400 relay of the Acheampongs, Sarpong and senior Brandon Ransom finished 10th (42.79), Jaeschal Acheampong was ninth in the long jump (22 feet, 10 1/2 inches), Schroff was ninth in the 1,600 (4:16.35) and King was 14th in the 800 (1:56.72).
Girls team led by 400 relay
The 400 relay placed third for the girls track team in the Division I state meet as Orange tied for 23rd (10) behind champion Gahanna (51) as 64 teams scored.
Juniors Brenda Agyekum, Grace Frye, Maya Patterson and Mackenzie Blendick finished in 47.76 in the first state appearance for the quartet.
"It was a really great experience," Blendick said. "The hardest part was getting (to the finals). I was pretty nervous in the prelims, but this was like any other race."
Agyekum also was nervous but saw the performance as a steppingstone because the relay was comprised of juniors.
"Overall for our first state meet, I thought we did well," she said. "We'll know what to do next year. We'll be more comfortable with each other and we can come back and be champions."
Frye placed fifth in the 300 hurdles (program-record 44.19) and ninth in the discus (124-11). She was 11th in the discus (120-4) last spring.
"My teammates definitely helped to boost my confidence," she said. "Getting out of the prelims (in the 400 relay) really helped me when I went to run the hurdles."
Agyekum was ninth in the 100 (12.37) and Blendick was 11th in the 100 hurdles (15.12).
Boys volleyball team has winning season
The boys volleyball team had a winning record in its inaugural season.
The 14th-seeded Pioneers lost to fifth-seeded Dublin Jerome 25-19, 27-25, 25-21 in a Division I East Region quarterfinal May 19 at Hilliard Darby to finish 12-11 overall.
"There are not enough words to describe the amount of growth that happened not only at an individual level but also at a team level," coach Karlie Foy said. "We went from 15 individual kids in a gym that were basically posing as volleyball players to a unit of athletes that could hold their own against any team."
The Pioneers finished fifth (2-8) in the OCC-Buckeye Division behind Olentangy (10-0), Liberty (8-2), Westerville North (6-4) and Westerville Central (4-6) and ahead of Westerville South (0-10).
Orange had two seniors in middle hitter Nick Cutler (77 kills, 89 blocks) and right-side/outside hitter Garrett Runyon (51 blocks, 133 digs).
"Our two seniors came in on tryout day never having touched a volleyball before, but through their relentless efforts they became players that we counted on not only for mental support but for physical support, too," Foy said. "Nick Cutler led us in blocks all year and Garrett Runyon was a force that we counted on both in the back row and the front row."
Expected to lead the returnees are four freshmen in setter/outside hitter Sam Cochran (127 assists, 130 digs), libero Lawton Hinley (second-team all-league; 49 kills, 273 digs), outside hitter/middle hitter Luke Little (honorable mention all-region, second-team all-league; 184 kills, 178 digs, 49 aces) and setter/outside hitter Jake Smith (221 assists, 71 aces).
"Four of our six starters were freshmen, so this class already is one to be reckoned with," Foy said. "They are all dedicated to growing and further developing in the offseason."