The memories Wendesen King has of growing up thousands of miles away haven't faded.

There were chances to play, as well as moments when he'd simply just run, while living in Ethiopia.

Also still vivid was the time when he and his twin sister, Bayoushe, spent three months in an orphanage before being told they were moving to America.

Now a Reynoldsburg senior, Wendesen spoke little English when he and Bayoushe were adopted by Patty and Jason King when they were 6 years old.

"I have positive memories from (Ethiopia) honestly," Wendesen said. "Our parents couldn't afford to have us because it was a Third World country, so (it's been) a blessing to come here. ... It was so we could have a better future and have an opportunity of life. Down there everybody looks at America like it's great because you have all these opportunities."

Developing into an elite distance runner is another chance he has seized upon in recent months.

Mostly a middle-distance specialist for the boys track and field team in past years, Wendesen competed for the boys cross country team last fall but never surpassed 18 minutes, 30 seconds.

He's been running more than two minutes faster this year for the Raiders, who have one regular-season meet remaining before the OCC-Ohio Division championships are held Oct. 12 at Lancaster.

On Sept. 7 in the McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial, Wendesen ran a personal-best 16:19 to finish third.

Then in the Galion Festival on Sept. 14, he placed 14th (16:23.05) and had the sixth-best time among central Ohio runners.

"I was proud of myself (for running in the 16-minute range)," he said. "I've got the whole mental thing going and from there on I've just tried to keep getting better and getting more experience. It was like a mental barrier from last year because that was my first year running cross country. I got a lot of training in, but mentally I wasn't there."

During his junior track season, Wendesen advanced to the Division I regional meet in the 800 meters and placed sixth (1:56.68) to miss advancing to state by two spots. He and junior Seth Davis were on the 1,600 relay that placed eighth (3:27.89) at regional, and those two along with junior Mars Davis were on the 3,200 relay that was ninth (8:11.14).

Mars Davis and Seth Davis have combined with Wendesen to give the Raiders a strong front pack this season.

"(Wendesen) started really getting the big picture about this same time last year," coach Bill Crane said. "He's put in a ton of work in the last couple training progressions, and this past summer was big for him. He almost got up to 70 miles a week, so he's really built up his mileage. We've been waiting for him to break through in races because he's struggled transitioning from being an 800 runner to a 5K guy."

Bayoushe wasn't able to compete last year because of injury but is in her third season on the girls soccer team this fall.

The twins have two older brothers in Ethiopia as well as a younger sibling with their adoptive family.

Jason King is a Reynoldsburg graduate who competed in track and cross country at Muskingum, and Patty King participated in track at Mount Union.

"I've always run from a young age," Wendesen said. "That's what the culture is down in Ethiopia, so I always remember running. At first I started playing soccer and then I stopped in sixth grade and played football and basketball and eventually ran cross country and track.

"I want to kind of progress my training. We're trying to lighten it up a little bit, so my times should be dropping. My goal is to run sub-16 (minutes)."

Boys soccer team in thick of title race

The boys soccer team will play host to Pickerington North on Thursday, Oct. 3, with first place in the OCC-Ohio on the line. Both teams are 3-0 in league play.

Reynoldsburg was 10-1-1 overall after beating Westerville South 5-1 on Sept. 26 and Watterson 2-0 on Sept. 28 and before facing Westerville North on Oct. 1.

The Raiders close the league schedule Tuesday, Oct. 8, at Lancaster while North plays its league finale Oct. 10 at home against Grove City.

"(North) graduated quite a few players, but four or five of (their players) I actually coach in club and they're quality players," coach Tony Labudovski said. "(North) always has a good program and it's a talented group. We look forward to the matchup. We've still got to play Lancaster after that, so one game at a time. It's going to come down to how are we going to get the result?"

Reynoldsburg, which finished 1-2-2 in the league last season, earned what Labudovski called a "very intense" 2-1 league win over Pickerington Central on Sept. 24 in which several yellow cards were issued.

After the Tigers scored on a penalty kick, Raiders senior defender Nate Russell tied it and junior forward Veron Fongeh scored the game-winner with under five minutes remaining.

"They just matured on the field with all the obstacles they had to get through," Labudovski said. "It's all about believing and maturing as a group. I've never seen a game like that. We had a goal called back. Once (Central scored on the penalty kick), the whole momentum changed. We finally battled. We could have handled ourselves better with the yellow cards, but it was just a learning lesson."

Girls tennis team preps for postseason

The girls tennis team was 7-11 before closing the regular season Oct. 1 at Teays Valley and Oct. 2 at home against Watkins Memorial.

The Raiders compete in a Division I sectional beginning Thursday, Oct. 3, at home.

In singles, freshman Olivia Cox opens against Chillicothe's Abby Pendell in the first round while senior Nia Harris faces Chillicothe's Sydney Wissler and senior Hope Chaffin plays Mount Vernon's Lucy Ogle in play-in matches.

The doubles representatives will be the team of senior Abi Swift and freshman Rowan Toole and the duo of junior Emili Pavlovska and freshman Lorelei Dunlap.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Reynoldsburg cross country, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:

CROSS COUNTRY

Oct. 5 -- Les Eisenhart Invitational at Thomas Worthington

BOYS GOLF

Oct. 2 -- Competed in Division I sectional at Turnberry. The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 8 at Apple Valley.

BOYS SOCCER

*Oct. 3 -- Home vs. Pickerington North

Oct. 5 -- At Hartley

*Oct. 8 -- At Lancaster

GIRLS SOCCER

*Oct. 3 -- At Pickerington North

*Oct. 9 -- Home vs. Lancaster

GIRLS TENNIS

Oct. 3, 5 -- Division I sectional at home. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district Oct. 10 and 12 at Reynoldsburg.

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

*Oct. 3 -- At Pickerington North. The Raiders lost to the Panthers 25-18, 25-17, 25-21 on Sept. 12.

*Oct. 9 -- Home vs. Lancaster. The Raiders lost to the Golden Gales 25-15, 25-21, 25-17 on Sept. 17.

*League contest