After waiting for more than 45 minutes in a backlog at the awards tent, Jaeschel Acheampong finally ascended the steps of the podium at the state track and field meet.
Seventh, fifth, third and finally to the summit, the Olentangy Orange High School junior stood at the top as the Division I boys long jump champion June 1 at Ohio State thanks to a program-record effort of 24 feet, 2 3/4 inches. His wide grin said it all.
This was a moment 12 months in the making, so the extra minutes to receive his gold medal didn't matter.
One year earlier, Acheampong finished ninth (22-10 1/2). This performance erased those memories.
"It feels good. I'm not going to lie," Acheampong said of winning the title. "The good thing is that I can still come back next year and do it again.
"This year, I was more focused on me and staying within my own jump. Usually other people's jumps can get in my head, but this time I went and did my thing."
As he did at both district and regional, Acheampong won with the distance from his first jump. That was important because he was nursing a sore hamstring throughout the postseason.
"It's good to get it out of the way like that," he said. "I tweaked my hamstring before district and I just focused on jumps. I think it paid off."
Coach Adam Walters said Acheampong had his focus change from the beginning of the season until state.
"Jaeschel just missed the podium (by one spot) last year in ninth place and he wanted to make the podium this year," Walters said. "As the season went along, that goal shifted to winning it. It was fun to watch him put it away early like that."
The boys team had its best showing at state, placing third (22.5 points) behind Pickerington Central (87) and Toledo Whitmer (24) as 78 teams scored.
"That was our highest finish at state and it came with Jaeschel not being totally healthy," Walters said. "We just had some great overall performances."
Senior Andrew Schroff was runner-up in the 1,600 meters in a program-record 4 minutes, 15.71 seconds after finishing ninth last spring in 4:16.35.
"It went how I planned it," said Schroff, who will compete in cross country and track at Miami University. "I wanted to stay out front and I knew the last 800 meters was going to be a battle between all of us. I never thought I would get runner-up in my life. It's great to do this for the Orange community."
Also earning all-state honors were junior Alex Kenish and sophomore Jonathan Petersen. Kenish was fifth in the 800 (1:53.47) and Petersen placed eighth in the pole vault (14-6).
The 3,200 relay of sophomore Lincoln Weber, juniors Kyle Stringer and Jay Shin and senior Jaryd Adu-Owusu was 18th in 8:40.56.
The girls tied for 19th (10) behind champion Liberty Township Lakota East (65) as 68 teams scored.
The Pioneers were led by senior Grace Frye, who was runner-up in the discus (145-10).
"I missed the podium for discus the last two years so I really wanted to get that," said Frye, who will be a heptathlete at Kent State. "I wanted to finish strong and I was happy to be able to do that. I was really consistent and it was one of the best meets that I have had."
Frye owns the program records in the 200 (25.22), 400 (59.07), 300 hurdles (44.19) and long jump (18-4 1/2). She also helped set program records in the 400 relay (47.73), 800 relay (1:43.94) and 1,600 relay (3:55.74).
"For Grace to go out as state runner-up is an awesome end to her storied career," Walters said. "She had a PR (of 142-10) on her first throw and then had another PR three throws later by three feet."
Sophomore Sara Borton placed seventh in the pole vault (12-0).
"(The atmosphere) was insane and it pumped me up even more," she said. "This is just motivation to be back here next year and do even better."
Senior Allie Guagenti, who will compete in cross country and track at Ohio State, was 10th in the 1,600 (5:06.38). Junior Anna Grabau was 16th in the discus (115-11).
The 3,200 relay of senior Lindsay Ott, freshmen Abby Schroff and Quinn Shannon and Guagenti was 16th (9:25.09), and senior Brenda Agyekum, Frye, senior Maya Paterson and freshman Ava Musgrove were 17th in the 400 relay (49.66).
The Pioneers won the boys and girls OCC-Buckeye Division titles May 11 at Hilliard Davidson. The boys captured their fourth consecutive league title and the girls ran away with their fourth in five seasons.
"Every year, we have great seniors who are going to be incredibly hard to replace, but we have underclassmen come out and step up for us," Walters said. "The boys team only loses Christian Wright and Andrew Schroff as big scorers (to graduation), so our usual high expectations may be even higher."
Weaver leaving post as athletics director
Athletics director Buck Weaver is set to become an assistant principal at Delaware Area Career Center.
Weaver became Orange's AD in fall 2017 after holding that position at Westerville South from 2013-17.
"I'm headed to Delaware Area Career Center because it's a great opportunity for my career," Weaver said. "My last day at Orange is July 1."
A 2000 Big Walnut graduate, Weaver competed at the prep level in football, basketball and track. He graduated from Ohio State in 2004 with a bachelor's degree in education and earned his master's degree in education administration from Ashland in 2010.
After graduating from Ohio State, Weaver coached football and track at Liberty Middle School and began teaching health and physical education at the school in 2007.
In 2008, he became a health and physical education teacher at Orange, where he served as boys track coach and an assistant football coach.
"I'm very sorry to see Buck go," principal Trond Smith said. "He added tremendous value to Orange High School, and I truly appreciated his enthusiasm and passion for our athletic program and our student-athletes."