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COLUMBUS -- Tyler Klouda's first trip to state lacked two things.
The then-freshman missed the medal stand, and then making matters worse, missed out on his Dippin' Dots.
He fixed the first problem with his stunning run in Saturday's 1,600-meter final, surging from ninth and 10th in the race's opening laps to a sixth-place finish.
He promised he would attend to the latter as soon as he got through the media scrum.
"Last year, I left here with two things missing," Klouda said. "I didn't get a medal, which I didn't really have a goal to get a medal, but I was like, 'Next year, I want to get a medal,' and actually I wanted to get Dippin' Dots last year, but there was a rain delay and we left, so I didn't get Dippin' Dots, so this year it's medal and Dippin' Dots."
The Garfield sophomore certainly earned both with his comeback run under a relentless central Ohio sun Saturday afternoon. The first lap didn't go quite how Klouda wanted, he explained, and the second lap would have been fine, except that he still had time to make up from his opening lap. As the championship race entered its final laps, Klouda was in perilous position, in ninth and 10th place and seemingly dropping back from both the first-tier pack and the second-tier pack.
But Klouda isn't the kind of kid who gives up. Made fun of by his friends for how he eats, breathes and sleeps running, the G-Men sophomore was hell-bent on making that medal stand.
"I ran decent, but I wasn't precisely where I wanted to be, so that kind of fueled my fire, desire and passion," Klouda said. "Everything was hitting me -- like I worked so hard this season, and I needed to dig deep and that's what it took. I really just dug deep."
As Klouda has ascended into the state's elite, his goals have changed. Last year, Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium was reward enough for the G-Men underclassman. He remembered walking around the gorgeous stadium, characterized by its brick exterior and towers on both ends of its one-sided stands, in awe.
"Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium has got to be the most electric stadium, maybe in the country," Klouda said. "I haven't been in that many stadiums, but I know in Ohio, this is really the top level. The excitement, the adrenaline, there's everything here."
But this weekend, just running in the cradle of champions wasn't enough. He came to Columbus to win.
Thursday, he nearly got into trouble, when he wanted to practice his strides on the stadium track and was told that it was walking only for that day's walkthrough. So, he and his coach walked -- the wrong way around the track -- and got in trouble again. "Walk the right way," they were told. Klouda, not wanting to be known as "that kid who tried to run on the track," quickly complied.
Friday, he enjoyed watching G-Men senior Lauren Jones win her third straight state discus title. Normally, he doesn't get the pleasure of watching her throw amidst the hustle-bustle of your everyday track meet. Some might have been antsy with the day-and-a-half of state competition without, well, getting to compete -- but not Klouda. He sat under an umbrella, shielding him from a ferocious sun, watching Jones go to work.
"It's awesome to watch Lauren throw on Friday, and I don't have to worry about racing," Klouda said. "I can just be a fan of the sport."
Jones, for her part, made sure to give Klouda -- and everyone else in attendance -- a show, as she not only took the discus title, but placed third in the shot put. She also set a personal record in the long jump.
"She's just a wonderful person and deserves everything she gets," Klouda said. "I like to model myself after her and how she presents herself."
He's off to a great start in that regard. Already as amiable as Jones off the field, he's becoming a legend in his own right on the track -- even if he is across the street from where the G-Men senior did her finest work.
"The amount of work that she puts in and what she achieves is very inspirational," Klouda said. "She knows how hard I work, so it's great that we both get to come down here and support each other, because when I see her excel, I want to do the same thing."