Olivia Gang finishes on strong note at state track competition

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent
Olivia Gang of Green was the state runner-up in the 3,200-meter run at the 2021 OHSAA State Track and Field Championships in Columbus, Ohio, June 5, 2021.

GREEN – Finish strong.

It’s a mantra any distance runner knows well; that final push at the close of a race to ensure the best possible result and that no unused fuel is left in the tank. For Green senior distance runner Olivia Gang, the entire month of May was the homestretch – not just for the season, but her high school athletic career as well as her high school career in general.

Bearing that in mind … what a homestretch it was, capped by a second-place finish in the 3,200 meters at the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I state meet last weekend.

“The whole month of May was pretty crazy with prom, graduation, districts, regionals and states. Me and my family were going, going, going, so we’re pretty excited to chill for a while,” Gang said of the past month.

That Gang was a state qualifier and near the front of the pack in the final race of her high school career likely came as no surprise to coaches and teammates who had seen her enjoy postseason success and state appearances in track and cross country over the past four years.

Capping her career by battling for a state title was a fitting finale and considering that her goal entering the race was to reach the podium, Gang exceeded those hopes.

“I was kind of shooting for something on the podium for sure and the race went really well …I was trying to hang with the pack and then people started dropping,” Gang recalled. “There was three laps to go and all of a sudden there were only four people in the pack and I was one of them, then the next lap a really good girl I expected to win it dropped off, and it was like, ‘Wow,’ but lap by lap, people dropped off and once that happened I was in the top two or three and at one point I was leading the race and thinking I just had to hang on because this was going to end well.”

The final result was a time of 10:45.23, 13 seconds off the winning time Gahanna Lincoln junior Alyssa Shope. In a fitting result given their battles over the past four years, the runner close behind Gang was Lake senior Alexandria Bauer. The two seniors have faced off in track and cross country meets throughout their high school careers, so one final duel that saw both reach the podium was a nice final chapter to their story.

Given how big the mental side of the game is for distance runners, it’s accurate to say that Gang has had to master her mental approach to reach this point and she admitted that she has a specific approach to races.

“You kind of get used to it and you have a lot of time thinking with yourself, but normally I just pay attention to my splits. The first mile I try to stay patient, stay with the pack and then the second mile you’re pushing hard and start making moves in more competitive races like this one,” Gang said, adding that during the race, she didn’t think about it being her final high school run. “Definitely beforehand that was on my mind, just going into it wanting to leave nothing on the table, it was kind of emotional.”

She admitted that it “took a long time to realize what happened and I’m still kind of in shock.” Getting congratulations from friends and family throughout the rest of the day proved surreal as well, but perhaps nothing was quite a much of a positive jolt as realizing she’d just raced her way into elite company for a program that has produced multiple state champions and even an Olympian, with names like Mark Croghan, Morgan Estes, Kelsie Ahbe and others lining the record books for the school

“It’s fun … going into Green freshman year, I never thought I would be compared to any of those amazing athletes that are on the record board and it’s great, but rather than think about that, I’d rather just have my younger teammates looking up to that and seeing more of them reaching that at Green,” Gang said.

As for Gang, the next thing for which she’ll be reaching is a decision on whether she’ll attend college this fall. She plans to run in college wherever she attends, but is still working with her family to decide on the right destination – with a plan to major in kinesiology and exercise science. That decision should come some time next month, but for now, she’s happy to enjoy finishing strong in this chapter of her story