It's been a long and winding road athletically for Brian Hartline during his senior year at GlenOak High School.
It began with tears of sorrow and shattered dreams when Hartline suffered a shattered leg in the very first game of the high school football season and, if he has it his way, it just might end in tears of joy from the thrill of victory in winning each of his two state hurdling events at the Jesse Owen Memorial Stadium this weekend.
In his last official OHSAA-sanctioned competition, Hartline is certainly the odds-on-favorite to win both the 110 and 300 hurdles at the state meet after posting the best regional time in the entire state in both events last weekend.
"My mood is more relaxed than anything," said Hartline in a telephone interview as he took a break from playing video games on the eve of the state meet to share some of his thoughts and emotions. "I'm really confident and I'm just feeling nice and relaxed."
Hartline is in Columbus to take care of business, plain and simple.
"A disappointing weekend for me would not be winning two state championships in the 110 and the 300," he said. "A good weekend would be winning both with PRs (personal records)."
But Hartline is not even contemplating the former scenario. He's not even concerned with setting himself up for any disappointment. After losing an entire football season to injury, Hartline has nothing to fear and nothing to lose.
"I know that I expect a lot from myself but I've put (everything) in perspective more than probably a lot of these other athletes have in their lives," he said. "In all fairness I probably shouldn't even be competing like I am right now with the injury that I had earlier this year. So I have nothing to lose and everything to gain."
The future Ohio State football Buckeye isn't out to justify his worth to anybody or vindicate his ability this weekend, but he is out to win.
"I'm really excited for this," said Hartline who verbally committed to OSU last summer, prior to his season-ending injury. "This is the first year that I didn't plan on coming down here to have a fun time. I wanted to come down here and compete, get the job done and go home."
In one way, Hartline feels lucky and even thankful to be competing for a shot at a state championship. At one point Hartline had been thinking about enrolling early at Ohio State. He thought that he might be able to rehabilitate his leg better at Ohio State.
But eventually Hartline decided that since he wasn't able to play football in the spring, then he didn't want to miss out on the rest of his senior year. He chose to rehabilitate his leg during track season and try to make it back to the state meet for a fourth time.
"Everything happens for a reason," Hartline said. "And by the injury happening, it puts me where I am right now. And this right now will put me where I'm at in the fall. So it's all one big chain."
And even if he didn't get injured and didn't enroll early at Ohio State, he probably would have still have made it to the state meet but he wouldn't have been able to appreciate it as much as he does now. And he admitted that he probably wouldn't be as fast as he is right now if he didn't get injured.
"You can't really dwell on the past or any could haves, would haves or should haves. If you do that you'd go crazy," Hartline said. "So you just take what comes at you and do what you need to do. I have no regrets. I think everything has turned out for the best."
If anything, Hartline may have earned respect form some of the people who may have doubted him and his ability in the first place.
Just last week he set a personal record in the 300 hurdles at 36.97 and he missed his PR by 1/100 of a second in the 110s at 14.07.
"I think I've earned the credit that I've gotten. If anyone wants to see how far I came and where I came from, they just need to look at my track season," Hartline said. "In the 300s I'm amazed at what I've done but in the 110s I'm kind of expecting it."
It's because of his high expectations that Hartline finds himself in the position that he is going into the weekend.
"I don't mean this in a cocky way but I've always expected this from myself," he said. "The doctors, no they didn't expect it. But for myself, yeah I've always expected it. So it depends on who you ask."
You certainly can't question his sincerity.
"I don't think I have many reasons to doubt myself," said Hartline, who was the favorite in the 300 hurdles at the state meet last year but finished disappointed in second. "I've come back from what I came back from and I'm running pretty well right now, so really in two days everything will speak for itself. I've got some great guys running in both of my events so it depends on who shows up which day and who runs faster which day. It's all about peaking at the right time and (at GlenOak) usually we do."
The hard part is all behind him now. Hartline has already proven that he's a champion no matter how his races turn out this weekend.
"This is who I am. People around me aren't really surprised, they kind of expected this to a point," he said. "They might have thought that physically, maybe, I wouldn't be able to do it. But me, I've had no doubts. I've always kind of been this way. I'm always stubborn about that kind of stuff."
And now he's really got his mind set on winning two state championships.
"I don't want to be any lower than that top spot (on the winner's podium)," Hartline said. "I think it's totally realistic."
There obviously couldn't be any better ending for him.