By TED RADICK
COLUMBUS — Mohawk senior Destini Oler isn’t some newbie on the track and field scene.
The Warriors’ track star ran two events at last year’s OHSAA Division III state track and field championships.
This year, she ran two relay events on Friday.
So, as she hit the track for Saturday’s 800-meter final, one would think she’d be calm, cool and collected.
“I was freaking out a little bit.
“No, I was freaking out a lot,” Oler said. “Face-wise, I was all chill and calm. Internally, I was like ‘Oh my gosh, I have to run?’ It’s a lot warmer than it was yesterday, and all these little thoughts kept popping in my head. I told myself to just calm down. My coach told me, ‘You’ve got this. You’ve been training all year for this, this is the time to leave your mark.'”
Make her mark, she did.
Oler took the lead shortly after the cut-in three-fourths of the way through the first lap, maintained that lead and finished with a state championship in a time of 2:15.10.
“It’s not that I’ve been here before, it’s that this is the last time,” said Oler, who will run track and cross country in the fall at Ashland University. “This was my last shot to leave it all out there. That’s what scared me the most, I think, realizing this is the end of the high school part of my career. Part of me doesn’t want to let that go, and I’m going to have to.”
Oler was seventh last year in the 800. After coming off the podium, she noted that most of the runners ahead of her were seniors and she vowed to come back stronger and faster.
Yeah, right; every runner says that in the heat of the moment.
Oler put her money where her mouth was, joining Mohawk’s cross country team while competing on the Warrior volleyball team in the fall.
“It really helped me, the mentality of cross county,” said Oler, who earned all-Ohio recognition in the fall from both the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches and the Ohio Volleyball Coaches Association.
“I mean, they would go up hills. Hills can really drain your body, I mean, sometimes you just want to walk up them. My coach forced me, he told me ‘you have to go faster.’
“That mentality, I brought that here with me. There was a girl next to me, and I told myself ‘You have to go faster. I need to run out. I need to run out there.'”
Oler said Mohawk coach Brock Cleveland spurred her on before she went on the track for her final high school race.
“He told me he was proud of me and he gave me a hug, and it sounded like he was getting emotional,” Oler said. “I started to get a bit emotional. I was thinking, he never gives me a hug. What is going on? But it turned out well.”
Oler had a basic plan of attack after running in Friday’s 3,200 relay that finished 13th.
“I was thinking, looking at the Minster girls, they ran pretty fast in the 4×8,” she said. “I thought, if it comes down to it I’ll just go run with them.”
Oler described the early part of the race.
“When the gun shoots off, I wasn’t even ready,” she said. “I wasn’t down at all. It was ‘On your mark’ and usually there’s a long couple of seconds. There wasn’t. It was boom, the gun goes off.
“I started taking off. The girl to my left was right beside me. ‘Oh goodness, I’ve got to get going.’ My vision was kind of lopsided because, internally, I’m still freaking out.”
Running out of lane 9, Oler faced a long cut-in to the inside lanes of the track.
“Being in the ninth lane, it’s kind of weird,” she said. “I’ve never really been out there and, wow, it’s a long cut-in. We’re cutting in, and I think ‘All right, I need to go now.'”
Oler took the lead shortly before the end of the first lap.
“I just kept going. I was happy I had finished that part of the race,” she said. “Second lap, the adrenaline picked me up. I had all this energy. ‘I can go faster.'”
Northwood’s Trinity Fowler, second in 2:15.64, and Minster’s Madeline Magoto (third, 2:15.70) and Cassie Francis (fourth, 2:16.07) tried to challenge to no avail. Oler was feeling strong and running crisply.
“I didn’t feel anything with my legs, or mentally,” Oler said. “‘Let’s just keep going,’ and it worked out really well.”
Mohawk has won state championships in the high jump, three times for the boys and once from the girls, but never before had the school won a track event championship.
“It’s pretty cool,” Oler said. “I did it.”