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.
Off the track, Oyewole has a multitude of interests that keep him busy. But, as always, school takes precedence.
Currently fielding scholarship offers from across the country, including Brown University, he has his hard work in the classroom to thank for many of his opportunities going forward.
"He's so driven. Just to be in high school and to be able to have the grades he has is impressive," said Sesay. "To be considered for Ivy League schools, you have to be an outstanding student. He's the complete package. Not just in track, but most importantly in the classroom."
Among his peers, Sesay said Oyewole leads by example, sometimes even taking on coaching responsibilities.
If coaches can't make practice on time, Oyewole leads the workouts. Afterwards, he'll give reports on how things went.
Sesay described him as the team's No. 1 leader, simply because he "does what he is supposed to do" when called upon.
In school, Oyewole hopes to combine his fascination of sports with a degree in business or marketing — a field he's had an interest in throughout high school.
In the meantime, he said he'll continue to work on his technique and his starts. With the outdoor championship events less than one month away, there's a whole new set of goals the Long Reach runner is looking to take down — including running a 20.9 in the 200.
"He never usually sets lofty goals. I'm usually the one who has the higher standards for him," Sesay said. "For him to say that, I believe he can do it. I really do."
Also named to the all-county team are:
Hutson Baumann, Centennial
Event: 3,200-meter run
Postseason highlights: Finished third in the 3,200-meter run at the county championship (10:03.72), first at the 3A East regional meet (10:02.72) and second at states (9:48.77).
Robert Carter, Long Reach
Events: 55-meter hurdles, 300-meter dash, relays
Postseason highlights: Finished fourth in the 55-meter dash (6:66), third in the 300 (35:95), and first in the 55-meter hurdles (7.70) at the county championship. Placed seventh in the 300 (39.74) and first in the 55-meter hurdles (7.99) in the 3A East regional meet. Won the hurdles (7.55) at states.
Brenden Chavis, Mt. Hebron
Event: shot put
Postseason highlights: Finished first at the county championship (48-0.00) and 3A East regionals (47-10.00). Finished sixth at states (46-7.50).
Jas Chung-Campbell, Wilde Lake
Event: 500-meter run
Postseason highlights: Finished fourth at the county championship (69.06), first at the 3A East regionals (72.14) and fourth at states (67.66).
Trey Clark, Howard
Events: 55-meter dash and high jump
Postseason highlights: Placed seventh in the 55-meter dash (6.77) and first in the high jump (6-0.00) at the county championship. Recorded a time of 6.79 in the 55, and a height of 6-0 in the high jump at the 4A West regional. Finished 10th in the 55 (6.75) and fourth in high jump (5-10) at the 4A state championship meet.
David Eisenhauer, Wilde Lake
Events: 1,600- and 3,200-meter run
Postseason highlights: Finished second in the 1,600 (4:32.15) and 3,200 (9:54.68) at the county championship. Placed third in the 1,600 (4:42.61) and fourth in the 3,200 (10:08.35) at the 3A East regional. Finished third in the 1,600 (4:30.84) and 3,200 (9:50.60) at states.
Alec Font, Centennial
Event: 3,200-meter run
Postseason highlights: Finished first at the county championship (9:49.84), third at the 3A East regional (10:04) and first at states (9:41.18).
Chris Heydrick, River Hill
Events: 800- and 1,600-meter run
Postseason highlights: Finished first in the 800 (2:00.06) and 1,600 (4:25.86) at the county championship. Finished first in the 800 (2:03.57) and 1,600 (4:38.95) at the 3A East regional. Finished first in the 800 (1:57.84) and 1,600 (4:17.50) at states.
Eric Higgins, Reservoir
Event: pole vault
Postseason highlights: Won the county championship (12-6), finished third at the 3A East regional (11-6) and fourth at states (12-0).
Justin Marsh, Howard
Events: 300- and 500-meter run
Postseason highlights: Won county championships in the 300 (34.72) and 500 (66.19). Finished the 300 in 37.33 and the 500 in 69.30 at the 4A West regional. Placed first in the 300 (34.88) and second in the 500 (66.36) at states.
Calvin Pitney, Glenelg
Event: pole vault
Postseason highlights: Finished second at the county championship (12-0), first at the 3A East regional (12-6) and first at states (13-0).
Bryan Sosoo, Reservoir
Events: 55-meter dash, long jump, triple jump
Postseason highlights: Finished second in the 55-meter dash (6.50), first in the long jump (19-4.75) and first in the triple jump (44-11.0) at the county championship. Placed first at the 3A East regionals (6.50) and at states (6.45) in the 55.
Ben Weinstein, Mt. Hebron
Event: 3,200-meter run, relays
Postseason highlights: Finished eighth at the county championship (10:26.49), second at the 3A East regional (10:03.59) and 12th at states (10:13.27). Was part of Mt. Hebron's regional and state champion 4x800-meter relay team.