The Olentangy Orange High School boys track and field team continues to make a name for itself in central Ohio and beyond.
The Pioneers tied for fifth in the Division I state meet held June 1 and 2 at Ohio State and were second in the regional meet that concluded May 25 at Pickerington North. Add district and OCC-Buckeye Division championships to that, and fifth-year coach Adam Walters continues to be impressed with his team's performance.
"The season was a big success," he said. "Anytime you have (the team's) second state champion, numerous kids advancing to state and placing highly there, and also winning league and district titles for the second year in a row, that's a great season."
Senior Jayden Rodgers won the 110-meter hurdles in a program-record 13.83 seconds to lead Orange to 27 points at state. Pickerington Central (58) won as 69 teams scored.
Rodgers became the second state 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.
Orange had three relays place at state. 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, the 1,600 relay of sophomore Jaeschal Acheampong, junior Christian Wright and seniors Manny Anderson and Tyler King placed third in 3:19.76 and Acheampong, his senior brother Kevin Acheampong, senior Joel Sarpong and sophomore Max Stewart were fourth in the 800 relay in 1:28.22.
"It was a great experience," Stewart said. "I was pretty nervous when we were warming up together, but having (my teammates) helped. This should help me if I make it back next year."
Jaeschal Acheampong also was ninth in the long jump (22 feet, 10 1/2 inches), Schroff was ninth in the 1,600 (4:16.35), King was 14th in the 800 (1:56.72) and the Acheampongs, Sarpong and senior Brandon Ransom were 10th in the 400 relay (42.79).
"We had a great state meet, but if a few people were healthier at the end of the year, we would have been in the running for the title," Walters said. "That can't take away from the season that we had."
One of the injuries Walters was referring to was to junior sprinter Zach Harrison, who had slight hamstring issues. Walters did not want Harrison to exacerbate the injury. The 6-foot-6, 240-pounder is one of the top football recruits in the country as a defensive lineman.
Orange was runner-up (60.5) at regional behind Central (97) as 41 teams scored. Rodgers won the 110 hurdles (14.16), Jaeschal Acheampong was first in the long jump (22-0) and the 3,200 relay won in 7:46.63 with the same runners from state.
In the 14-team district 3 meet, which concluded May 19 at Hilliard Darby, Orange was first with 113 points to 86.5 for runner-up Big Walnut.
The Pioneers won the OCC-Buckeye meet for the second consecutive year. Competing at home May 10 and 12, they scored 195.5 points to finish ahead of Westerville Central (99), Liberty (71.5), Westerville South (71), Olentangy (43) and Westerville North (43).
"The boys do lose a lot, but we have guys like Andrew Schroff, Jaeschel and Alex Kenish expected back," Walters said. "We should have enough underclassmen coming back ready to step up into new roles for us."
Girls team expects to return strong nucleus
The girls team was led by a talented junior class, including all four runners on the third-place 400 relay in the Division I state meet.
Brenda Agyekum, Grace Frye, Maya Patterson and Mackenzie Blendick finished in 47.76 in what was the first appearance for all of them at state.
Orange tied for 23rd (10) behind champion Gahanna (51) as 64 teams scored.
Frye placed fifth in the 300 hurdles (program-record 44.19) and ninth in the discus (124-11), Agyekum was ninth in the 100 (12.37) and Blendick was 11th in the 100 hurdles (15.12).
"The 400 relay came together after (the) OCC (meet) and we thought we could do something at regional and state," said Walters, who completed his sixth season leading the girls team. "Grace was in three events at state and placed in two. She continues to keep improving."
Frye was runner-up in the discus (132-8) and fourth in the 300 hurdles (44.47) at regional as Orange was fourth (43) behind champion Gahanna (84) as 32 teams scored. The 400 relay won in a program-record 47.73.
Agyekum placed second in the 100 (12.27) and set a program record of 12.09 in the preliminaries, and Blendick finished fourth in the 100 hurdles (15.2).
The 3,200 relay of juniors Allie Guagenti, Lindsay Ott and Brooklyn Miller and senior Zoe Bond was seventh (9:29.72), and the 800 relay of sophomores Camille Barron and Alyssa Carter and juniors Elizabeth Schneider and Alana Gibson was 15th (1:53.41).
Senior Katie Priest placed sixth in the 300 hurdles (45.19), Guagenti was eighth in the 800 (2:16.85) and junior Celia Ritchie was eighth in the high jump (5-1).
The Pioneers were third (126) in the OCC-Buckeye meet behind Central (146) and Liberty (135) and ahead of Olentangy (61), North (35) and South (20).
"We will lose Katie Priest and Megan Cochran as a couple of our main scorers, but we still have a lot coming back," Walters said. "We're excited about what we can do next year."