MASON, Ohio -- Before every track and field meet this postseason, Amaya King says a prayer to her most ardent fan.
King, a Mason junior, is one of the area standouts in shot put and discus this spring. She captured the district title in the shot put and was third in the discus May 19 at Mason.
Earlier this spring, she captured the Greater Miami Conference titles in the discus and shot put. She set a conference record in the discus with a throw of 130 feet, 8 inches.
All of the accolades are nice. She keeps a positive attitude during a meet. She's more relaxed this spring than from a year ago. Now, she's not worried about expectations.
King was fifth at state in the shot put in 2016. She competed at the New Balance Nationals in North Carolina last June.
But so much of throwing is a test of mental strength during a competition. That's often the most difficult challenge. Her late grandmother, Ruby O’Neal, would be proud.
“She was a big supporter of mine,” Amaya said. “She always used to tell me these stories or riddles. I just honestly talk to her before a meet. I am like, ‘Grandma, help me out.’ I just say some prayers. I just kind of speak to her to get my head right.”
Ruby is Amaya’s middle name and it’s the first name she goes by with the Mason coaching staff. O’Neal, who died in 2011, kept memories from Amaya’s early throwing career that started with the shot put at age 7.
Track and field has always a positive outlet for Amaya. The same could be said for Ruby O'Neal.
“She was always there for me in spirit and she is still there for me,” King said. “She was my best friend.”
Andrea King, Amaya’s mother and O’Neal’s daughter, took Amaya to competitions at an early age while Amaya’s brother Alex started to play football. Alex King, a standout Mason outside linebacker, leaves for the University of Kentucky June 6.
The family support has been significant for Amaya throughout her high school career.
Amaya has also paid attention to elevating her strength and technique during the offseason. She worked out at Mason-based Midwest Athletic Performance after her sophomore season.
“I think first and foremost she is a student of the game,” Mason girls’ track and field coach Tony Affatato said. “Ever since she was younger her mom was taking her to meets and really helping her develop. I think that’s been huge for her.”
Ruby O’Neal will undoubtedly be on King’s mind this week. King will compete in the Division I regional discus meet Wednesday afternoon at Welcome Stadium. King, 17, will compete in the regional shot put meet Friday at Welcome Stadium.
King wants to win state in the shot put and place third in the discus in Columbus the first weekend of June.
King’s personal records include 45 feet and 10 inches at the shot put and 144 feet and 10 inches in the discus. The sky is the limit.
"She's a special athlete and a top-notch competitor," said Mason head throws coach Paul Barry. "She's the kind of athlete you only see once or twice in your coaching career."
She has plenty of college interest including from the University of Cincinnati, Duke, Stanford and schools in the Southeastern Conference.
"She's got a big future in front of her," Barry said.
For now, she’s keeping all her options open. King is interested in writing and journalism. She’s also been active in the school community and finding ways to include others in various projects.
All of those character traits will give King plenty of options before deciding on a college program.
“I think what separates her from a lot of kids in these events is her work ethic,” Affatato said. “It’s by far unbelievable for a high school girl to work as hard and to be as dedicated as she is -- both in the classroom and then also in athletics.”