For Tosin Oyewole, the last four years have been about accomplishing a strict set of goals on the track.
It started in his freshman year, when he first made it a point to get faster, and be recognized as one of the best athletes in the county. The preparation was important, and he knew he could be successful with the support of the Long Reach program.
It was all about how badly he really wanted it.
"I started to take care of my body more, work harder at practice, and work on form, starts and stamina," said Oyewole. "I approached everything professionally."
From there, shooting for smaller targets along the way helped him continue to get better.
Winning county and regional titles as an individual was nice, and the same went for those state accolades this year as well. Still, it was being a part of team championships that was ultimately the most gratifying.
Over the course of this season, the Lightning quietly built a powerhouse program, and Oyewole's steady speed and drive to improve was a big reason why.
Though facing stiff competition throughout much of the year, especially from a few of his own teammates, Oyewole's accomplishments on the track were hard to ignore, and that's why he's been named the Howard County Times/Columbia Flier Athlete of the Year.
"He's very deserving," said Long Reach sprinters coach Sam Sesay, who has worked with Oyewole over the last three years. "We've had a plan for him to do great, especially in his senior year."
Howard County's elite competition kept Oyewole honest for the entirety of the season, but it could have been the Lightning's own Rob Carter — a state champion hurdler in his own right — that ultimately pushed him to a new level.
"I love that competition that Tosin and Rob had with each other. The times that they get to train together, they just go at it," said Sesay. "It's very rare that you have two major athletes on the same team."
Around the county, small rivalries blossomed into unlikely friendships on the track for Oyewole, who said he often found himself being pushed by Reservoir's Bryan Sosoo or Howard's Justin Marsh.
"When I look at Rob, or some of my other competitors, we all had that passion and that drive to be better," said Oyewole.
In a meet at the beginning of the season, Oyewole said he wasn't very confident in his performance in the 300.
Apparently, Marsh felt the same way.
"After the meet, Justin texted me to say he was disappointed, and that he needed me to push him," Oyewole said. "I always thrive on competition. I have the philosophy that you have to beat the best to be the best."
That message was received loud and clear, and even if the weather threw many of the athletes through a loop throughout the season with snow cancellations and rescheduled meets, Oyewole was never fazed.
After tackling the 55-meter dash at the Howard County Championship meet with a time of 6.49 seconds, he followed that performance up with a regional and state title in the 300.
Yet, even with top showings from the team's two best runners, the Long Reach boys entered the last event of the state championship meet tied atop the team standings with Centennial. All that remained was the 4x400 relay, and the Lightning did not disappoint.
Having already won the 4x200 earlier in the meet — an event the Lightning swept in the regional and county meets as well — Oyewole and Carter helped lead their team to a third-place finish, and team championship victory.