COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State wide receiver signee Chris Olave believes running track has made him more dangerous on the football field. A former 400-meter runner, Olave switched to sprints midway through high school and has clocked a 10.8-second time in the 100 meters.
“It definitely helps me on the football field,” he said. “It helps create separation and that extra gear when I get the ball in my hands.”
If that’s the case, Olave might be better than ever when he arrives to Ohio State in June. In addition to his traditional spring role as a sprinter for the San Marcos (Calif.) Mission Hills track team, the 3-star wide receiver is pulling double duty and also serving as a base-stealing specialist for the baseball team.
“Chris loves to compete at everything,” Mission Hills football coach Chris Hauser said. “He hasn’t played baseball in years, but he goes out there and pinch runs for them because he wants to go steal bases and help them win. He’ll take batting practice and field fly balls and then run over to track. One day he’s in a baseball uniform, the next day he’s at a track meet and then it’s back to baseball. That to me has him primed for what he’s walking into at Ohio State. He’s built that way. I’m not saying he’s going to win every battle right away, but his mindset is right for what he’s getting into at Ohio State.”
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Perhaps most impressive is the fact he hasn’t played baseball since before he was a teenager. Though he’s used primarily as a pinch runner, Mission Hills baseball coach Ken Putnam has been impressed with Olave’s willingness to put in the work to improve at a sport that he hasn’t played in years and won’t play in college.
“He just works like crazy,” Putnam said. “He’s a sponge. He gets better every single day. His primary role is to be a pinch runner for us. He’s one of those kids you wish you could have had for four years. I can only imagine what a kid with his work ethic and athleticism would have been able to accomplish on the baseball field.”
It hasn’t taken him long to make an impression on the diamond. Putnam said an opposing coach asked him to put in Olave as a pinch-runner despite Mission Hills holding a big lead because he wanted to see him run. After three unsuccessful pickoff attempts, Olave swiped second base without a throw despite everyone knowing an attempted steal was coming.
With a month left in the season, there are already plenty of examples of Olave’s game-changing speed paying off for the Grizzlies.
“I put him in to pinch run at first base when we had the bases loaded,” Putnam said. “The next kid hits the ball in the left center-field gap. I’m starting to wave around the kid who was at second base and all of a sudden I realized Chris was running right up his backside. By the time he got to third base Chris had caught him and they all three scored. Off the bat I thought we might get two runs and we ended up getting three.”
Interestingly, his speedy genes have a baseball connection. Olave’s uncle Gene Richards was a first-round pick of the San Diego Padres in 1975 and once held the Major League Baseball record for stolen bases in a rookie season with 56.
And while he’s tearing up the basepaths during his final high school months, Olave plans to use his speed to torment opposing Big Ten defensive backs for the years to come.
“My style of play is vertical, like a deep threat,” he said. “I can get behind the defense. I’m fast, but I can also work the short game and turn 6 yards into 60.”