Just having some homecoming week fun, Brenda Agyekum nearly ended up losing her senior season with the Olentangy Orange High School girls track and field team.
Agyekum was playing in the school's annual powderpuff football game Sept. 12 when she went to make a cut, but her right knee did not. The result was a torn ACL, surgery a month later and a mental and physical attempt to regain her previous running form.
"I thought it was OK because I just got up and walked," she said. "I heard a pop, but my friend, Zach Harrison, said he heard a pop when he hurt his knee and it turned out to be A-OK. He told me I would be fine, but it didn't turn out that way.
"I went home and iced it. I went to some trainers at D1, where I work out, and they told me it might be my ACL because it felt loose. Then I went to OSU (Wexner Medical Center) and they said I had torn my ACL and there was nothing there. It was ruptured. One thing they said, it was my ACL, not my MCL or anything else, so I was grateful for that."
Agyekum, a sprinter, holds the program record in the 100 meters, which she set last spring by running 12.08 seconds in a preliminary race of the Division I regional meet. She was runner-up in the final in 12.27 and finished ninth at state in 12.37.
Agyekum also joined seniors Grace Frye, Maya Patterson and Mackenzie Blendick on the 400 relay that finished third at state in 47.76. They set the program record of 47.72 while winning a regional title.
"Usually it takes six months to start coming back (from ACL surgery) so for Brenda to be racing at the beginning of the outdoor season was big," coach Adam Walters said. "I attribute that to her work ethic and wanting to be back where she was.
"I'm super-proud of her and the way she has come back. It's been tough, though, when you are used to running a certain time and your one leg -- your knee -- isn't 100 percent. I think (her old form) is still there, and we still have a couple of weeks to get there."
Agyekum had surgery Oct. 16, but still was a few months away from running.
"In November, I was on one crutch and I decided to try walking without (the crutch), and it was hard," she said. "I couldn't balance on one leg or try to put pressure on it or I would just fall. So, I had to keep working and do stuff on my own. I had to hold myself accountable. I had to know I could get through the process.
"In December, I started jogging, running and squatting, and then maybe in January I was told I could full-on sprint, but I wasn't sure I was ready."
The mental aspect was the most important thing to returning, according to Agyekum.
"When you tear your ACL, your knee doesn't seem the same and you have to work hard to train and relearn things," she said. "The pain was there. It felt like the stitches were going to bust your knee open. I had to come to get stronger mentally and knew that I was not going to get injured again. I had to realize that I was fixed.
"I started doing block stuff. Pushing off the blocks helped my knee more than anything. When I get in the blocks, I'm more in track mode and everything comes back for me. I had done it so much that I didn't forget. It was muscle memory. It's been a mental battle, which is fitting because so much of track is a mental battle."
Fighting back hasn't been easy. Agyekum's top time this spring in the 100 is 12.9, but she believes she's trending toward better times with the postseason approaching.
"I feel like right now I'm just trying to run fast and put force to the ground," she said. "I have to do the right actions and the results will follow. My goal is to drop .2 every time (at meets). OCC is coming up and I usually PR there and then districts. I know even if I don't go far my (400 relay) will and that means a lot to me."
The OCC-Buckeye Division meet began May 8 at Westerville North and concludes Saturday, May 11, at Hilliard Davidson. The Pioneers then compete in the district 3 meet, which concludes May 18 at Hilliard Darby.
"It's been an uphill battle," Walters said. "I wasn't even sure if we would get Brenda back this year, so the fact that's she's here is a big win."
Baseball team battling for OCC-Buckeye title
The baseball team was 17-6 overall and tied for first in the OCC-Buckeye before playing Westerville Central on May 7. Orange was tied with Liberty at 10-2. Central was third at 6-6.
The Pioneers lost to Liberty 6-5 in nine innings in a game that started May 1 and was concluded May 2. Caden Konczak doubled, singled and drove in two runs and David Hughes had two singles in the final league meeting for the teams. Orange won the first two meetings, 2-0 on April 5 and 8-7 on April 8.
The Pioneers played Olentangy on May 8 and close the league schedule Friday, May 10, at home against North. They defeated the Warriors 7-1 on April 29 and 3-1 on April 30.
Orange is seeded third for the Division I district tournament and opens Wednesday, May 15, at home against 27th-seeded Delaware or 46th-seeded Whitehall in the second round. The winner plays in a district semifinal May 21.
Softball squad begins postseason
The 28th-seeded softball team was 7-12 overall after defeating 26th-seeded Dublin Scioto 11-7 on May 6 in the first round of the Division I district tournament. Riley Jestadt singled twice and had two RBI, and Brenna Oliver had two singles and drove in a run.
The Pioneers faced 27th-seeded Pickerington North on May 8, and that winner plays in a district semifinal Monday, May 13, at a neutral site against second-seeded Mount Vernon or 34th-seeded Central Crossing. The district final is May 17 or 18 at Pickerington Central.
The Pioneers finished 3-7 in the OCC-Buckeye.
Below are the coming schedules for the Orange boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, boys tennis and boys volleyball teams:
May 9 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman
May 14 -- At seventh-seeded Whitehouse Anthony Wayne in first round of Division I, Region 1 tournament. Winner plays second-seeded Dublin Jerome, 11th-seeded Dublin Scioto or 17th-seeded Marysville in quarterfinal May 17 at home of better seed. The Pioneers are seeded ninth.
*May 10 -- At Big Walnut
May 13 -- At seventh-seeded Delaware in first round of Division I, Region 1 tournament. Winner plays second-seeded Olentangy or 15th-seeded Anthony Wayne in quarterfinal May 17 at home of better seed. The Pioneers are seeded eighth.
May 9, 11 -- Division I sectional at Reynoldsburg. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district May 16 and 18 at Reynoldsburg.
May 9 -- At Pickerington Central with Thomas Worthington