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CINCINNATI -- Oyler High School's track team is dedicated, decorated and absolutely in love with the sport of running. It's also a team of one: Ricky Thomas II, a lifelong runner who decided his school's lack of an existing program shouldn't stop him from competing.
"I asked my principal freshman year, ‘Is there any way we can get a track team?'" Thomas, 18, said. "She went out and found a coach, and we started running."
He might have switched schools if she hadn't. Running, a hobby shared by his sister, both his parents and three of his grandparents, has been that fundamental to Thomas' life.
He found a fellow believer in Ray Nephew, who coached him through a high school track career successful enough to earn scholarship offers.
"He's a real good, down-to-Earth guy," Thomas said. "One you get to know him, you love him."
The pair felt the loneliness of a two-person team most keenly during training. What would be group runs on an average-sized track team became solo runs for Thomas, which could be "painful and boring," he said. In track meets, however, his situation was the same as everyone else's. He was a solo runner against a group of other solo runners, each gunning for personal records and victories.
He snagged more than most. When asked how many medals he had won, Thomas said he'd lost count; a picture he sent to WCPO showed 40.
"It's the best feeling," he said. "The hard work you're putting in, it pays off when you get that medal around your neck."
Now an Oyler graduate, Thomas said he has offers from several different schools as he figures out where to continue his education. Wherever he ends up -- whether its track team comprises dozens of people or none at all -- he plans to keep running.