TAMPA — Hillsborough High sprinter Jorian Ordway may have developed her athletic prowess before she was even born.
Her dad, Jonathan Ordway, was a football star and track athlete for the Armwood Hawks and a member of their first team to make the playoffs. He went on to play at Boston College and for the Tampa Bay Storm.
Ordway's mom, Tara "Cookie" Crawford, also ran track and played basketball at Armwood.
But Jorian, whose performances in the 400 meters this season make her an early favorite to contend at the Class 3A state meet, never really liked sports growing up.
"I was kind of a bookworm, I guess you would say," Jorian said. "I didn't really enjoy sports."
As a youth, she preferred curling up with a book on the porch or the couch instead of sweating out laps at a track meet.
"I always joked with Jorian, how she was like her (grandfather) more than me or her mom," Jonathan Ordway said. "She (Jorian) would just sit in her own world and read a book."
Grandpa, Larry Ordway, is a science teacher at Lennard High School and a Brandon High graduate. He has a degree in biology education from the University of South Florida, and was undoubtedly an early influence.
"She would be curious about things other kids were not so curious about," Larry Ordway said. "You could just tell by the way she was settled and mature that it would lead to academic success."
Larry Ordway recalled how Jorian was always eager to show her report card and want to discuss a book she'd read or a science question from school. "You knew she has this underlying drive to succeed," he said.
Succeeding in sports didn't come so naturally. She tried soccer, volleyball — nothing really clicked. It wasn't until eighth grade when Jorian first ran a lap on the track.
"Khiara (Cezair) was my ride home and she started doing it, so I figured why not," Jorian said.
The bookworm finally found an athletic outlet.
"I fell in love with track," Jorian said. "There's this individual and team thing going on where if you mess up, it's on you, yet at the same time there's this team aspect to it also."
From that day, Jorian's steady progression in the sport has drawn attention. She made the state meet as a freshman on Hillsborough's 4x400-meter relay team.
She was fourth at states in the open 400 as a sophomore and third as a junior.
Now she's poised to do even more.
It is quite uncommon to break your personal record in the first meet of the season, but Jorian did just that with a 55.43 at last month's Charles Johnson Invitational.
That's significantly better than the 56.21 that earned her third at last year's state meet.
"This is her year to do it (win states)," Terriers coach Jean Wiser said. "Last year (at Charles Johnson) she ran a 58, she got it down to almost 55 by states; this year she's coming in at 55 — she could get down to 53 by states."
The early-season success is even more impressive when you consider Jorian likes to be pushed but seldom gets serious challenges when running against county competition.
She actually runs with the boys in practice to get an added edge.
"I feel like I run the 4x400 relay even faster. I run faster when people are in front of me or pushing me," Jorian said. "When there's no one in front of me I end up letting up too much. It's all about managing the race."
Managing is just what it takes to succeed in the 400. Jorian saw room for improvement in her starts so this season she's also running the 100 and 200, placing second in both events at the Johnson Invitational.
And if you're wondering, the speedster is still a bookworm, maintaining a 6.1 grade point average as a senior in the International Baccalaureate program at Hillsborough High.
She has had contact with Miami, Florida State, Arkansas State, Georgia State, Kennesaw State and has an offer from Kent State not just for athletics but for academics, too.
"An athlete like her (Jorian) only comes around once every so often," coach Wiser said. "She's a really good role model. There are a lot of younger kids on this team — they look up to her."
Andy Warrener can be reached at [email protected]