Today was supposed to be Jaeschel Acheampong’s day.
The recent Olentangy Orange grad, fresh off winning a Division I state title in the long jump at the OATCCC Indoor State Championship in March, more than likely would’ve been competing for his second straight outdoor championship in his signature event at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
Any number of things could’ve derailed the dream, of course — an injury here or a bad outing there — but, in the end, it was the coronavirus that did the trick.
With the world shut down, Acheampong had plenty of time to think about the season he and his teammates never got to have … and he thought it would’ve been a pretty successful one.
“Toward the end of winter I really felt like our team had momentum coming off of the indoor state championship … and me personally, I felt the fastest I’ve ever been,” he said. “I 100-percent completely believe that this season was going to be the best season for not only me personally, but the whole team. All the stars were aligned, everyone was fast and had the same mindset. There’s no doubt in my mind we were going to win states as a team, but then Ms. Corona came through and shut that all down.”
The virus, and the social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home order that accompanied it, took away a lot for seniors like Acheampong … especially senior athletes. Still, once the outdoor season was officially called off, he said he didn’t spend too much time thinking about the what ifs.
“It was honestly just hard that day, mainly because of the way it ended,” he said of the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s decision to cancel the season. “But, the way I dealt with it was essentially realizing it was just simply time to get better.”
After all, that — getting better — is what Acheampong’s done his whole career.
He finished ninth in the long jump at the outdoor state meet as a sophomore, missing out on a spot on the podium by a quarter of an inch.
The following spring, though, Acheampong found himself on top of it. His best effort, which came on his first attempt of the day, was 24-02.75 … a mark good enough to take top honors.
After an offseason of improvement, Acheampong entered the indoor season ready to roll. A heel injury slowed him down early on, but he more than made up for it down the stretch.
“The injury really limited me in the form of jumping at meets and practicing jumps, so we limited practice to really trying to getting me back to 100-percent while lowering my 60- and 200-meter dash times,” he said.
By the time the indoor state meet rolled around, he had found his form. He finished third in the 60-meter dash (6.79 seconds) and third in the 200 (21.62 seconds). He won the long jump with a mark of 23-02.75 and closed second in the triple jump with an effort of 44-00.50.
Shortly after that, Acheampong was training for whatever comes next just like everyone else: from home.
“Most of the time I’d just go through text messages with my coaches and do past workouts,” he said. “I just did a lot of at home core stuff and technique drills.”
For Acheampong, what comes next is a career at Harvard University, where he plans to run and jump for the men’s track and field team.